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iprcsenteD to 

^be library 

of tbe 

i^niversit^ of Toronto 

Professor W. J. Alexander, 


The Channels of English Literature 
Edited by Oliphant Smeaton, M.A. 


By Professor W. Macneile Dixon, M.A., 
University of Glasgow. 

By Ernest Rhys. 

By the Very Rev. H. C. Beeching, D.D., 
D.Litt., Dean of Norwich, and the Rev. 
Ronald Bayne, M. A. 

By Professor F. E. Schelling, Litt.D., 
University of Pennsylvania. 

By Oliphant Smeaton, M.A., F.S.A. 

By Professor James Seth, M.A., University 
of Edinburgh. 

By Professri Hugh Walker, LL.D., St. 
David'i College, Lampeter. 

By Professor George Saintsbury, D.Litt., 
University of Edinburgh. 

By Professor Richard Lodge, University of 

By Professor J. W. H. Atkins, University 
College of Wales. 








Copyright, 1914 


C. D. S. 


In the following pages, an endeavour is made to tell, in 
scale and with a due regard to proportion, the story of English 
drama from its beginnings in the miracle play and morality to 
the performance of Sheridan's Critic, in the year 1779. A con- 
cluding chapter presents a sketch of the course of the drama 
since that time, in outline and by way of suggestion, and no 
more. To have completed the book on the same scale would 
have demanded another volume. But a better reason for the 
course here pursued is to be found in the circumstance that, by 
the time of Sheridan, almost the last vestige of the original 
dramatic impulse had been lost, the impulse that begot Mar- 
lowe and Shakespeare and carried the great traditions of their 
art over the Restoration and into the next century ; and when 
the modern revival came, inspired by a renewed appreciation of 
the great Elizabethans, it was manifestly not a revival on the 
stage, but in a new species of literature, the drama of the study, 
as different from the original parent stock as the novel is dif- 
ferent from it or from the drama capable of successful presenta- 
tion on the stage. 

English drama may be likened to a strand in which two 
threads, among many, are conspicuous: the thread which desig- 
nates the actable play and the thread which designates that 
quality to which we give the indefinable term literature. In 
the days of Elizabeth, these two threads were, for the most 
part, so interwoven and twisted together that they gave to the 
cord that strength and unity that we recognise in the great 
dramas of that time. So complete, we may well believe, was 
their adaptation to their own stage — which, be it remembered, 
was not our stage — that, in reading them merely or seeing 
them reproduced under different conditions, we feel that they 
have inevitably lost something of their original charm. But 
the thread of literature and that of actability (shall we call it?) 
tended, from the first, to fall apart. There are plays of Shake- 
speare's own time that are inconceivable acted; there are also 


olavs of his time which only the curious student now reads — 
and that only for discipline. The split became greater and 
greater as the gentleman writer turned his attention to play- 
making or as the allurements or profits of the craft attracted 
those whose cultivation and power of expression in words was 
inferior to their opportunities of becoming practically conversant 
with the stage. Until, by the beginning of the last century, 
the two threads have been torn hopelessly apart, that ot the 
theatre to be represented by Knowles, Robertson or Boucicault, 
the literary and poetic, by Byron, Shelley and Tennyson even 
more completely in severance, by Browning and bwinburne. 
There is need for a history of this great schism; but it belongs 
not to a book of this size or plan. For a history of the drama 
in the England of the nineteenth century must take into con- 
sideration political and social developments, changes of attitude 
in reader and auditor as well as the ideals of literature and cos- 
mopolitan influences of which the happy little world, ruled by 
Pope and Voltaire, could have had no premonitions. 

In presenting the material of this book in as orderly a suc- 
cession as possible, the wealth of the Elizabethan age has led to 
a treatment of the drama, there, in its successive varieties rather 
than in a strict chronological array of the authors and their 
works. A steady progress forward is, none the less, maintained. 
While the stage, as well as the literary nature of the works con- 
sidered, has been constantly kept in view, a history of the stage 
as such forms no part of the plan of this book. That work has 
been well done more than once. On the other hand, the atten- 
tion of the readci is by no means limited to the literary drama, 
as the progress of the type could in no wise be made clear with- 
out a consciousness of the background against which the greater 
figures stand and a recognition of the conditions that make their 
work comprehensible. In any inquiry such as this, the author 
is torn between the two extremes to which the late Mr. Lang 
once happily alluded in a review: the danger of telling oyer 
again what everybody knows, and the peril of calling attention 
to what nobody cares anything about. The progress of scholar- 
ship should alone be a sufficient answer to this embarrassing 
dilemma, the logical consequence of which would be the reduc- 
tion of all who write to silence. With new material accumu- 
lating daily to modify " what everybody knows," " the peril of 
calling attention to what nobody cares to hear anythmg about 
sensibly diminishes. The ordering of minor things in a truer 


relation is a process in which a large part of the function of the 
historian consists, and out of which major results may issue. 
Even those most stubbornly content with " the present state of 
polite learning in Europe " may be constrained to readjust this 
facile division of all things ascertainable. 

The present writer regrets that the plan of this series does 
not include either as complete an apparatus of notes or such 
bibliographies as are coming — possibly somewhat pedantically 
— more and more into vogue. In lieu of the first, he wishes to 
make his general acknowledgments to his predecessors of whom, 
among so many, to mention a few would be invidious. An ex- 
ception, however, must be made in the case of Professor C. W. 
Wallace, whose indefatigable researches in the Public Records' 
Office have been so richly and astonishingly rewarded. The 
documentary material which Professor Wallace has published 
concerning Shakespeare, the Elizabethan theatres and kindred 
matters, has been used in this book materially to revise many 
accepted ideas on these subjects. The writer has not always 
been able to accept Professor Wallace's inferences, and submits 
that possibly he may modify his views when he can speak with 
greater fulness of knowledge as to the many " finds " of Pro- 
fessor Wallace that still await publication. The writer accepts 
the responsibilities of his own studies for the Elizabethan age 
and the Restoration period to the dfath of Dryden ; beyond, he 
confesses frankly that he has trodden more circumspectly in the 
paths which those have made who preceded him. As to texts 
and authorities, the student reader is referred to the admirably 
full and useful bibliographies in the successive volumes of The 
Cambridge History of English Literature, to the excellent lists 
of authorities in A. H. Thorndikc's Tragedy, 1907, and to the 
bibliographical Essay of the present writer's Elizabethan Drama 




Preface ^' 


I The Drama, its Nature, Origins and Relations . . . i 
II MEDiitvAL Drama in England U 

III Lyly, Marlowe and Other Immediate Predecessors of 

Shakespeare 39 

IV Shakespeare and His Contemporaries in History and 

Romantic Comedy 75 

V Dekker, Heywood and the Drama of Every Day Like . 103 
\I Shakespeare, Webster and the Height of Tragedy . . 123 





IX Shirley and the Last of the Old Drama 204 

X Dryden and the Drama of the Restoration . . 234 

XI Steele, Rowe and the Close of the Literary Drama . . 270 

XII English Drama Since Sheridan 309 

Index ^^' 



As this book is one of a series of volumes dealing with the major 
channels of English literature, a statement of the nature and 
limitations of the subject here in hand can not be out of place. 
To the modern man a definition of drama might seem simple 
enough. A drama is " a thing made to be acted ": surely this 
is sufficient; and, indeed, acting touches the vital point of all 
drama. But the Senecan tragedies of Neronian Rome were not 
things "made to be acted"; neither is much of the literary 
drama of Victorian England, Shelley's Cenci for example or 
Swinburne's splendid trilogy devoted to Mary Stuart. While 
an historical inquiry into any subject must consider that out of 
which it arises, its cogeners and its outcomes, this book must 
be from the nature of the case, concerned, in the main, with 
that form and variety of written speech which details a con- 
nected story by means of dialogue and the attendant action in- 
volved in histrionic representation. Medieval dibat, estrif and 
pageant ; balUt, masque and pantomime, modern closet play, 
prose conversation, poetic fantasy or rhapsody " writ dialogue 
wise," each has its place and partakes in its measure of dramatic 
qualities; but none is strictly drama nor need call for more than 
a subsidiary mention for the contribution of its tributary stream 
to the current of the main dramatic channel. Again, this book 
is of English drama, that is, a history of the growth and de- 
velopment of the drama in one country and in one tongue. 
There is an interesting chapter on Latin drama in modern 
western Europe; and foreign influences, in ebb and flow, have 
always been especially strong in literature of the dramatic type. 
Neither the examples of the ancients nor borrowings from the 
moderns can be neglected in an inquiry such as this; but it is 


easy to make too much of them. They, too, must keep their 
place for the necessary light which they can throw upon our 
major subject, and they must be permitted no more. As to one 
other limitation this book will be found less strict, and this is 
best suggested in the rejection of the titles, " a history of dra- 
matic poetry," or " a history of dramatic literature. ' ^ This 
last word popularly involves an esthetic appraisement with an 
exclusion of the inferior and unliterary, a process foreign to 
rational historical inquiry. Indubitably we care less for pro- 
ductions that live their brief day and perish with the age that 
begot them than we care for those accredited works which have 
made their authors immortal. But the history oi literature can 
no more be written in a neglect of the writings of lesser men 
than we can hope to write the history of a country solely on the 
basis of the biographies of its kings and princes. There is much 
admirable drama that is not poetry, whatever definition may be 
attached to that much abused word. And there are many plays 
that we read with interest for their place in the history of litera- 
ture which could never move that detached and extraordinary 
person, the reader whose standard is the hypothetical absolute. 

As a point of departure, Aristotle's simple definition of drama 
as " imitated human action " has not been bettered. The limita- 
tion, "human," is not less pertinent than the much debated 
term " imitation." For, however an Aristophanes or a Rostand 
may take us oH to Cloudland or to Birdland, it is the human 
traits, even in these depart iies, that make such personages as 
theirs possible. Man cannot escape man even in the drama, and 
it is the ways of our kind, so dear to us, that constitute the essen- 
tials of dramatic subject matter. From another well known 
definition we may gain another point of view. " A drama is an 
epic told in lyric parts." But here we must apprehend the corn- 
ponents if we are to be sure of the compound. An epic, in 
large, is a narrative poem, a story of deeds, told outwardly and 
objectively by some one who has heard them. A lyrical poem 
(the song element aside for the nonce) is the expression of an 
inner or subjective emotion by one who has felt what he ex- 
presses. Drama, in common with the epic, is concerned in the 
telling of a story. But the story is not told objectively and in 
the third person, but in the very speech, action and emotions of 
the participants, thus involving lyrical expression. It is ob- 
vious that we have here less a definition than an illustration, for 
there are other elements in both epic and lyrical poetry which 


might readily confuse ; and, besides, the range of drama, as we 
have seen, is broader than that of poetry, however its heights 
may fall short of the loftier flights of the inspired rhapsodic 
lyrist. If we combine what we have thus far discussed, we have 
for a drama a picture or representation of human life in that 
succession and change of events that we call story, told by means 
of dialogue and presenting in action the successive emotions in- 

But it is far from tnje that ever)' story is dramatic, even 
though it fulfil in presentation the conditions already rehearsed. 
E^very drama involves — so the philosopher would have us know 
— a conflict between what he calls the universal and the particu- 
lar, with the triumph in the end of one or the other. In tragedy 
the universal is some law of general acceptance among men, 
whether ethical and of man's making or founded on religious 
sanction. The struggle is therefore of a serious nature as it 
involves rebellion against Fate, against God or, at the least, 
against accepted human code. Hence tragedy deals with the 
deep and turbulent passions, those that lead to violence and 
crime. In comciiy, contrastedly, the universal is some conven- 
tion of men, a concatenation of circumstances which common 
experience tells us are 'ikely to lead to certain results, and the 
struggle of the individual is against such things, the process of 
his struggle, cleverness, ingenuity, wit against wit, ii- which 
the lighter traits of mankind, their manners, follies, peccadilloes, 
play a diverting part. Hence comedy leads to laughter as irre- 
sistibly as tragedy begets tears. And in an ultimate analysis, the 
philosopher once more tells us, the essential difference between 
tragedy and comedy lies in the nature of the universal. 

To illustrate the nature of dramatic conflict, in the familiar 
tragedy of Macbeth, a struggle is involved between the uni- 
versal law expressed in the command, " Thou shalt do no mur- 
der," and the individual will of Macbeth. The law declares 
" Thou shalt not slay thy fellow man and thrive thereafter." 
Macbeth, in his mad infatuation to attain a crown, dares to 
commit murder; but finds that barely to maintain his crown, 
he must wade ever deeper in crime. And in the end, even 
crime will not save him. Macbeth has put his will against 
eternal law, and he goes down to destruction the consequent 
victim of his own folly and wickedness. Moreover, we are 
satisfied artistically as well as •ethically with the result. On the 
other hand, the conflict of The Taming of the Shrew lies be- 


tween the will of Petruchio who has determined to tame Katha- 
rine, and the common experience of men that women of 
Katharine's temper are inconvertible into submissive and ami- 
able wives. Our pleasure lies in the process of the comedy, and 
especially in the unexpectedness of the triumph of the intrepid 
bridegroom. The statement of the conflict is not always so 
simple as in these typical cases. The plot of most plays is in- 
volved in minor particulars concerning minor personages. To 
take the two Shakespearean plays just contrasted: in Macbeth 
we have the subsidiary story of Macduff whose failure to credit 
the depravity of Macbeth or neglect to provide for so bloody a 
contingency loses him his wife and children under circumstances 
of hideously wanton cruelty. Insufficient enough must have 
been the victory of Macduff's sword on the usurper who died 
like a man sword in hand. But Macduff is not the hero of 
Macbeth. His story is necessary, like that of the unfortunate 
Banquo, not for itself but as an essential feature of Macbeth's 
struggle with fate. So, too, The Shrew involves a second 
story, that of Katharine's sister, Bianca, and her suitors. 
Bianca is the sweet average young woman, pretty, but wanting 
Katharine's personality and charm. Her story is an excellent 
foil for that of the more forceful and entertaining " shrew." 
You can always tell what will happen to Bianca; in her un- 
expectedness lies the effective comedy of " Kate the curst." 

Dare a man defy the laws of God and make his way by 
means of murder to a crown ? The answer is definitively " no." 
Dare a man take the liie of a friend whom he loves, believing 
him to be a tyrant and that thus he is preserving the liberties 
of his country? Again we answer " no," although enormously 
different is the case of Brutus as contrasted with Macbeth. 
More, can we justify the folly of an aged king who divides 
his kingdom among his children before his death and disinherits 
his only faithful daughter because she is not glib of tongue in 
the expression of her filial affection? And are we able to ex- 
tenuate so as to forgive the violent act that caused an honour- 
able soldier to kill his beloved under mistake that she was un- 
true, when that mistake was the result of the most diabolical 
practice by means of which an honourable man has ever been 
duped? For neither King Lear nor for Othello can we con- 
ceive a further life in this world, shriven and measurably for- 
getful of past sorrow. And this leads us to a recognition of 
the ethical quality of tragedy which demands expiation in full 


measure no matter what the ultimate cause or justification of 
crime. Where great tragedy has flourished in the world this 
rigour of the universal law has been unrelentingly upheld, 
whether we express our ideas in the religious symbols of 
i^schylan mythology, in terms of the God of Christian creeds 
or in Ibsenesque phantoms of heredity and human depravity. 

Recurring to comedy, we may ask other questions than that 
which concerns the temerity of Petruchio. Can a young woman 
who serves the prince whom she loves in the capacity and dis- 
guise of a page, hope to win him by honestly acting as his 
messenger to another lady whom he affects? Viola accom- 
plishes this in Twelfth Night; and Helena in Jll's IVell that 
Ends Well, contrives against lowly birth, her husband's vow 
and desertion equally to attain her object. But in comedy, 
unlike tragedy, the outcome of the struggle is not always cer- 
tain and a triumph for the protagonist. We may query once 
more: may four young gentlemen lock themselves away from 
converse with womankind for study and hope to remain undis- 
turbed and undistracted ? The answer of Love's Labour's Lost 
is pleasantly " no." And may a young man and a young woman 
determine each to himself and contrary to the time of the hey- 
day of life that neither will marry, and succeed in keeping this 
vow? "Not if their own hearts with the help of knavish 
friends contrive to defeat them " is the answer of the Much Ado 
About Nothing. Obviously if the universal is only relatively 
such, the outcome may be divertingly uncertain. There is as 
much delight, from a comedy point of view, in effort discon- 
certed as in effort successful, in character disproportionate as 
proportionate to profession. Comedy is more variable than 
tragedy, as it is dependent on more transient conditions. The 
triumph of individual effort over fortuitous circumstances still 
defines a large class of comedies, but pathos, character and 
laughter all are subserved equally well by the mverse method. 

It has of course not escaped the ingenious reader that the 
foregoing examples have been wholly Shakespearean and he will 
neither forget that there are many other dramatists both before 
and after, nor that there are many other methods in the dramatic 
art. Not yet to leave Shakespeare, there are queries that arise 
in the solution of the dramatic struggle in his plays which wc 
should not answer as he answered them. Are we satisfied with 
the fate of Shylock or the forgiveness of Leontes in The Win- 
ter's Tale? To the query dare a man make the question of 


his wife's virtue the subject of a common wager and hope for 
reconciliation and happiness after, we are astonished to find 
Shakespeare answering " yes " in Cymbeline, and the dram- 
atist's source alone will not explain this complaisance. More 
comprehensible to the contemporary mind is the condoning of 
incorrigible knavery which we meet in Jonson and Middleton 
and which had an honest lineal descent from Plautus and the 
Greek comedians. But these matters are ephemeral and may 
well be left to the historical part of our subject. 

For the conduct of this representation of man in conflict with 
his environment which we call drama many rules have been 
devised and many precepts determined. In these matters it is 
always worth w^hile to ascertain whether the principles of dra- 
matic structure which we find laid down so convincingly in 
books are the result of an actual examination of the field of the 
drama entire, even of any one group of plays, or if they are 
based, as they often are, merely on scholarly ratiocination. Aris- 
totle was an observer of the greatest possible acuteness; but the 
mere sanction of his name has long since ceased to carry laws 
to the barbarians. Aristotle wrote, — or was rather reported — 
with Greek tragedy almost alone in view; Freytag with the 
German masterpieces of a century ago for his chief illustrations. 
Many people write books on this topic who forget that the 
drama has changed since Shakespeare, and more appear to suffer 
under the superstition that there is a superior merit in a play 
which is structurally " correct " ; as if the growing forms of 
literary or other organisms could be determined a priori, and 
the process of time snd genius, which again and again justifies 
in success the transgressions of all such laws, were not to be 
reckoned with. 

With such a conception of the relations of the technicalities 
of any art to the art in its vital development, the reader must 
not be surprised to find little store set in this book on questions 
that concern the position of the climax and the advantages of 
postponed catastrophe. He who wishes to know the differ- 
ences between " action-dramas and passion-dramas," the subtle 
distinctions that explain plot and counter-plot, sub-plot and en- 
veloping action, the kinds and varieties of nemesis, and " the 
moment of tragic suspense," may find all of these things set 
down in the books that treat them. Obviously, a play, like 
any other story, is governed by certain principles of construction. 
It must begin and close at the proper place in the narrative. 


taking nothing for granted if, as in English drama usually, the 
plot may be supposed to be unknown to the auditor. The action 
must admit nothing dramatically irrelevant and the play is less 
a unified organism if a subsidiary plot is admitted which is 
not germain to the chief story. The conflict of which we have 
heard so much, must be presented as an actual conflict, the out- 
come of which is really in doubt, and naturally there must 
arise, at some place, a turn in this struggle that marks coming 
victory or defeat. If it bring any illumination to call the 
presentations of the relations of the personages in a play the 
'I exposition," the procedure to the turning point of conflict the 
" rise " and the recedure therefrom the " decline," there can 
really be no objection to such nomenclature or any other, pro- 
vided it be remembered that such mechanical matters have very 
little to do with a veritable appreciation of any dramatist's art. 
It is related that an excellent university poet, John Watson of 
St. John's College, Cambridge, in late humanist times, suffered 
not his Latin tragedy of Absalom to come into print or to per- 
formance because in a certain passage thereof " anapestus is 
twice or thrice used instead of iambus." A contemporary pro- 
fessor of literature, applying rigorously the standards of a " cor- 
rect " construction to the modern novel, is reported to have 
found only one work that reached his jealous scale of perfec- 
tion : and that was The Hound of the Baskcrvilles! In the 
historical consideration of a type such as drama it becomes 
more than ever important to judge each product by the 
traits of its own being and to eschew standards and preconcep- 

Many practices of the English drama have been conveniently 
borrowed from the classics. The soliloquy, the chorus, the 
aside are such, together with such extraneous parts as the pro- 
logue and the epilogue, and the formalities of division into act 
and scene. None of these things are vital to the drama, for 
drama may exist without them. On the other hand, no gen- 
uinely great work is ever impaired by the stage conventions 
accepted in its time. A prevalent vulgar error identifies art 
with life, the representation with the thing represented. Now 
no art really reproduces life, for first art selects from the abun- 
dance of material offered by life, taking only that part of a 
character, that number of events in a series, those relations of 
person and place, which are suited to its purposes. This is why 
it is often said that the logic of art is severer than the logic of 


life, why a closer causal relation is to be sought in^ a play than 
in an historical occurrence. Again, each art has its own con- 
ventions and may be likened to a foreign language with all its 
idioms and peculiar characteristics into which the story taken 
from life has been translated. It is quite as irrational to 
quarrel with conventions of dramatic stage representation as it 
would be to quarrel with a Greek second aorist or with the 
dual gender in Sanskrit. The grammar and idiom of lan- 
guages change, and so, too, do the grammar and idiom of the 
stage. Certain things can be done with colour on canvas, other 
things with bronze or plaster. The highest art is that which 
speaks idiomatically in its own dialect, the art that translates 
life frankly into the terms of its own acceptance. 

And now let us turn from these generalities as to the nature 
of drama to consider why the English drama is what it is. At 
the outset it may be affirmed that modern drama can in no 
sense be traced back to any direct literary contact with ancient 
drama, Greek or Roman. On the supposition that some such 
touch may once have existed, it has been customary to cite as ex- 
amples the Suffering Christ (XpiaTo? Tracrxwv), once attributed 
to St. Gregory the Nazianzene, who lived in the fourth cen- 
tury, and the Terentian comedies of the Abbess Hrotswitha of 
Gandersheim in Saxony. But the first, however suggestive of 
an acquaintance with Greek tragedy, turns out to belong not 
to St. Gregory of the fourth century, but to a Byzantine writer 
of the twelfth. It has been described as " a religious exercise 
in the garb of Euripidean diction " and as doubtless unknown to 
Western readers until the sixteenth century. The comedies of 
Hrotswitha, which belong to the twelfth century, were an 
honest attempt, by a high-minded and talented woman of cul- 
ture and rank, to apply the dialogue and situations of Latin 
comedy to moral and religious teaching. This was precisely 
what the humanists attempted on a greater scale and more 
originally two or three hundred years later; but whether any 
connection really existed between such sporadic efforts and the 
famous mention by William Fitzstephen, in the later twelfth 
century, of " miracles of saints and passions of holy martyrs " 
may well be doubted. These lost saints' plays, like the extant 
drama of Hilarius who was supposed to have been born in 
England, seem rather to link on to the sacred drama, however 
indirectly they may have been effected by literary examples. 
As one of the northern, outlying provinces of the Roman em- 


pire and as a part of that empire which reverted more com- 
pletely to earlier barbarian conditions than some of the provinces 
closer to Rome, we must expect to find little or no influence 
of Roman conditions on anything that survived in the nature of 
drama in England. This was substantially the history of the 
other countries of western Europe, however the successors of 
the scenici and the degenerate mime of Roman origin may have 
become confused, in the earlier middle ages, with the tumblers, 
buffoons and wandering rimesters who added their rude hu- 
mour and revelry to the even ruder humour of the folk. The 
scop of Saxon times, in contrast to the mime, was a personage 
of dignity and importance, and his successor in mediaeval days, 
the minstrel, often maintained much of both. Both of these 
old English entertainers could have included little that was 
dramatic among their songs and stately recitals, save where the 
direct touch of narrated dialogue or mimicry in impersonation 
may have added to them verve and life-likeness. But English 
minstrelsy was soon to learn many things from the vivacious 
trouveres and jongleurs of the Norman conqueror, and among 
them were the quasi-dramatic disputations, jeux-partis and 
estrifs among which The Harrowing of Hell, an estrif on the 
beautiful legend of Christ's descent into hell, may be reckoned 
as one of the sources of the morality. Among the humble 
strollers whose entertainment was of a lighter and more comic 
sort, dialogue was certainly early in vogue and the use of 
marionettes, which is well authenticated, " implies not only 
dialogue but plot." ^ Farce became prevalent enough on the 
continent to form a distinct and recognised species of mediaeval 
drama; but, in England, save for a single mention of "other 
japis " in the Tretise of miracles pleyinge and the fragment of 
the text of the Interludium de Clerico et Puella, a dialogue 
founded on the popular story of Dame Siriz, we have nothing 
to correspond to the considerable repertoire of this kind in 
France until we reach the days of John Heywood. Nor do 
occasional indications of the performance of satirical attacks in 
dramatic form give us the right to reconstruct for England 
more than an hypothetical existence of any such dramatic organ- 
isations as the Enfants san souci or the Basoche of Paris. How- 
ever, that both such actors and such a lighter drama did exist 
throughout the mediaeval centuries in England is certain in 
1 See Secular Influences on the Early English Drama, by H. H. 
Child, Cambridge History of English Literature, vi, 25. 


view of what came after. It Is always to be remembered that 
little of a literary character inheres in popular drama such as 
this The art of writing was an unusual accomplishment even 
among the clergy, and records such as these, which often called 
down the criticism and the enmity of the church were little 
preserved except where, as in the case of the miracle play, they 
received the church's sanction. 

A root of English drama, earlier and deeper than long pos- 
sible survivals from the classical ages has been uncovered in the 
study of folk-lore.2 -phe festivals and observances of Pagan 
times with their set ritual often involving procession, combat, 
dance, song and disguise, had much in common with the spirit 
that makes for drama. Festivals such as those that survived in 
the observances of Christmas, May-day, and harvest time create 
the holiday mood and induce the exercise of activity for play 
which has in it the elements of feigning. On the literary side, 
while the cantilenae, or songs celebrating the deeds of the 
heroes of the folk, may have had in them little of the dramatic 
elements, traditional festival songs were commonly accompanied 
by a burden or " chorus " and many were framed by way of 
query and response amounting at times to set dialogue. In 
short, while the material connected with early English customs 
among the folk exhibits no such certain steps as those which 
can be traced in early Hellenic times, the analogue of a de- 
velopment from folk-song and festival to folk-drama in both 
cases involves no uncertain process of reasoning. Nor is 
England without example, in mention and survival, point- 
ing to what this tolk-drama may have been. A gossipy 
attendant at court, Robert Laneham, describes for us a per- 
formance of the Hock Tuesday play at Coventry in 1575, one 
of the many entertainments in honour of Queen Elizabeths 
visit to the Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth. This " old storial 
show " as our informant calls it, was " for pastime wont to be 
played yearly," and he describes the argument: how the Eng- 
lish under Huna defeated the Danes and rid the kingdom of 
them in the reign of Ethelred on Saint Brice's night, November, 
1002. John Rous, Laneham's predecessor, in a naention of the 
Hock Tuesday play by over a hundred years, assigns the story 
to a commemoration of the driving out of the Danes, which pre- 
ceded the accession of Edward the Confessor to the throne in 
2 An authoritative book on this subject is that of E. K. Chambers, 
Mediaval Drama, 2 vols., 1903- 


1042.^ In all likelihood the origin harks back to an im- 
memorial folk-custom in the process of which a victim was ob- 
tained for the sacrifice by simulated force, women playing an 
important part in the struggle. This last feature remained 
conspicuous, according to Laneham, in the Hock Tuesday plays. 
There are many other examples of the general custom ; the per- 
formance which Elizabeth saw at Coventry is the only instance 
of this folk-custom transformed into the dialogue and action 
of a connected play. 

Of the Hock Tuesday play we hear no more after Lane- 
ham ; the sword-dance remained fruitful later. Such a custom 
may obviously date, among a warlike people, from exceedingly 
early, even savage, times. Writers on folk-lore associate its rit- 
ual with primitive customs having to do with the expulsion of 
Death and Winter and the resurrection of Summer, and it is 
the source of many an extant debat and estrif on the topic. 
The sword-dance soon became mimetic and certain definite 
personages developed, such as the fool and the " Bessy," a man 
dressed in woman's clothes. Some have held the morris-dance 
(in which appear Maid Marian and Robin Hood himself very 
often) merely an offshoot of tiie sword-dance. A development 
of more interest to us dramatically is the mummers or St. 
George play which has by no means as yet disappeared from 
many outlying rural parts of England. Here the central idea 
is the killing of one of the personages and his restoration to 
life. The chief character is always a saint, a king or a prince 
George, there is a spoken introduction of the characters besides 
the dialogue, much action, dancing and often a number of sub- 
sidiary personages among whom, " the hobby-horse is not for- 
got." It has been justly remarked that the " king " and " prince 
George " are " Hanoverian improvements," as " saint George" 
must have been mediieval with its suggestion of the contem- 
porary influences of saints' play and miracle. The Robin Hood 
play is still another of these survivals of the customs of the 
folk; but here the modifying contemporary influence was 
mediaeval balladry, itself a lineal descendant from early com- 
munal song. The Robin Hood play is regarded a development 
of the May-game in which the coming of spring is celebrated 
with dance and song, and a king and queen appointed to lead 
in the revels. The pastoral form of this play was universal in 
France, and Robin became the type-name of the shepherd lover, 

^ Ilistorla Res;um Angliae (printed 1716), pp. 105, 106. 



Marion that of his mistress. In England all this was confused 
with the ballad story of Robin Hood, Manon became Maid 
Marian and the pastoral features were lost in those of tree 
forest life and fight with dishonest constituted authority rep- 
resented in the Sheriff of Nottingham and the de ightful out- 
lawry of Robin and his friends, Friar Tuck, Little John and 
the rest The Paston Letters disclose an interesting mention 
of a servant with whom his master was loath_ to part because 
he played Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham so well. 
This familiar mention points to a popularity of such perform- 
ances in the fifteenth century. Moreover, a fragment^ of such 
a play of much the date of the allusion just mentioned is extant 
and " a merry geste " of Robin Hood, " with a new play for 
to be played in May Games," was printed about the year I5bi. 
The story of Robin Hood was later to prove dramatically 
fruitful in many plays of the Shakespearean age, but it may be 
doubtful if this was so much a survival of any influence from 
the old folk-plays as it was referable to the awakened national 
spirit that found in this popular hero of old English balladry 
whose ancestry extended to the Teutonic god Wodin (though 
little they knew it), a personage peculiarly typical of the new 
age When all has been said for these influences of the im- 
memorial rituals of the folk, their games and festivities, little 
can be proved except that such customs preserved among the 
people a temper of mind favourable to the dramatic way of 
presenting things. This the mediaeval Christian clergy were 
quick to discern ; and the cleverness, that turned the Saturnalia 
into Christmas and the pagan licenses of May-day into the re- 
joicings of Easter, converted the love of fiction, the impulse 
for play and disguise and mumming into a potent means where- 
with to spread a knowledge of bible story and an acceptance of 
Christian doctrine. That a learned Byzantine priest should 
have remembered Euripides when he wrote his suffering Christ 
and a cultivated German princess her Terence, whom she imi- 
tated crudely enough with like pious intent, seem matters in 
no wise remarkable. But we may feel more than assured that 
these were exceptional cases, academic and to some extent im- 
practical. The age needed a translation of the great truths of 
Christianity in familiar terms of the present, and mediaeval art 
accomplished this in its own way. Thus it developed a drama 
that employed, of what went before, all that was vital and 
■1 Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, iii, 89. 


significant, all that it could understand, neglecting as non- 
existent or declaring active war on all else. The drama in 
mediaeval times was like one of those wonderful and incon- 
gruous cathedrals, built out of the ruins of Roman temple and 
Druid altar alike, in which angels, saints and demons combine 
with the human hands that framed them, in an ornamentation 
bizarre and absurd, to produce, none the less, a total result that 
is sincere, imposing and lasting. Into that stately edifice let 
us now enter, remembering that it was dedicated singly to the 
service of God. 


The drama of England, like that of all other countries of 
western Europe, had its ultimate origin in the services ot the 
church though other influences came in time to shape and de- 
flect it from its major purpose, the representations of Pp/tions 
of the scriptures for religious and moral edification. 1 he be- 
ginnings of modern drama lie at the heart of the ritualof the 
church. Technically described, modern drama takes its rise 
in an antiphonal mimetic development of certain tropes of 
the mass. Translated, this signifies that in the process of 
elaboration to which the services of the church were submitted 
during the ninth and tenth centuries, the choral parts of the 
mass were extended and supplemented by the insertion of new 
melodies to which in time new words were written. The in- 
serted melodies were called neumae, the words of these amplifi- 
cations, tropes. Some tropes in later metrical developments 
gave rise to famous medieval hymns. Other tropes, which 
were attached to alternating songs, took a dialogue form, and 
among them a few proved dramatically potential and came m 
time to be accompanied by a species of stage representation. 
Such a tiope was the Quern quaeritis, as it is called from its 
first two words, an amplification of the Ofjicium or Introit, 
the alternating song, " sung by the choir at the beginning of the 
mass as the celebrant approaches the altar." In its earliest and 
simplest form the Quern quaeritis is little more than a para- 
phrase of Matthew (xxviii, 1-7) or the corresponding passage 
in Mark (xvi, 1-6). This trope was first written at St. Gallen 
about the year 900. Transferred to the celebration of Easter, 
It became at once dramatically capable of extension. The 
earliest scrap of anything like an acted scene that has come down 
to us in England, is a brief transcript of this dialogue between 
the angel at the sepulchre of Christ and the two Maries and 
Salome. It is still preserved in an old manuscript entitled the 



Concordia Regularis Monachorum, an appendix to the rule of 
St. Benedict, in Winchester Cathedral, and dates from the end 
of the tenth century (959-975), when King Edgar reigned in 
Wessex and long before William and his Normans had come 
over to England to disturb Saxon rule. We can imagine, in 
this case, the rude representation of a cave, beneath one of the 
arches of the church, beside the entrance to which lay a great 
stone, apparently just rolled away. Three of the younger 
clergy, dressed in long garments, betokening womanhood, ap- 
proach the opening and meet there another figure, arrayed in 
white, bearing wings and holding a palm in his hand. As he 
sits beside the tomb, he asks, " Whom seek ye? " and they reply 
" Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified." And the angel 
tells them ** He is risen, he is not here ; behold the place where 
they laid him." With these words he lifts the veil, showing 
the place bare of the cross and only the clothes remaining in 
which the cross was shrouded. Then the three, taking the 
cloth, hold it up and sing, Surrexit Dominus de supulchro, and 
the Te Dtum follows with joy and ringing of bells. As 
Chambers puts it, here " dialogued chant and mimetic action 
have come together and the first liturgical drama is, in all its 
essentials, complete." * 

But Easter was not the only point about which gathered the 
nucleus of the drama to be. The Officitim Fastorum is based 
on a Christmas dialogue that formed itself about the praesepe, 
or cradle, precisely as the Quern quaeritis was formed about 
the sepulchre. The praesepe was arranged near to the altar. 
To it certain of the clergy, arrayed as shepherds, advanced 
singing a hymn ; while a boy, in the likeness of an angel, sang 
in reply the good tidings, from a position above. As the shep- 
herds neared the cradle, they were met by two priests, at- 
tendants at the divine birth, a dialogue ensued, beginning: 
"Quern quaeritis in praesepe, pastores dicite? " This was fol- 
lowed by another hymn, while the shepherds knelt in adoration, 
and so the embryonic " play of the shepherds " ends. The 
Pastores as it is called, followed the Quern quaeritis in the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries, beginning in a trope of the 
third or great mass, but undergoing a similar transfer to the 
celebration of Christmas. It is somewhat unfortunate that 
these " choral services for special occasions " should be called 

1 The Mediaval Stage, ii, p. 15. 


" liturgical plays." With their formal responses and Latin 
texts they were full of suggestion; but theirs was the efficacy 
of the symbol. In no true sense do they represent histriomcaily 
the events of Bible story. The liturgical plays are mterestmg 
to the historian of the drama only in view of wh^t m time was 
to develop from them. 

The dramatic development of the liturgy belongs especially 
to the twelfth century with half a century added before and 
after. The dramatic motive involved in the doctrine of the 
real presence, with its vivid and poignant sense of the human 
suffering of Christ for mankind, was soon to lift the symbol^m 
of liturgical ceremony into the realism of actual drama. Be- 
fore the beginning of the eleventh century the process of amplifi- 
cation had set in. The simple colloquy between the angel and 
the Maries at the tomb was developed at times to embrace the 
purchase of ointments of the spice merchant by one of the 
Maries, their communication of the news of the resurrection to 
the apostles, a like visit of two of them to the sepulchre, and 
the apparition of the Saviour to Mary Magdalene. Similarly, 
to the Pastores were added the lamentation of Rachel and the 
Stella, a trope of different origin, wherein the three kings of 
the east are represented as guided by a star, set glittering over 
the altar, to the cradle that lay beneath. Other tropes of the 
service also developed, as for example, the Prophetae, which 
originated not in a chant but in an early narrative sermon 
against the Jews. But, for our purposes, we need not be fur- 
ther concerned with these liturgical beginnings. This incipient 
drama was early recognised for its value as Creizenach has put 
it, furnishing " a species of living picture-book" of sacred story 
wherewith " to fortify the unlearned people in their faith." 

The next step towards actual drama is obviously the detach- 
ment of these " plays " from their place in the service. They 
continued long in their original positions even after they had 
come likewise to be otherwise employed. But once detached, 
the invention of like episodes dramatic and their use for divers 
religious purposes were certain to follow. We hear very early 
of plays on the lives and miracles of saints. Such must have 
been the Play of St. Catherine, prepared by a Norman, Gode- 
froy of Le Mana, head-master of the monastery school at Dun- 
stable, dating 1119, but now lost. And such are the three 
dramas of Hilarius, a pupil of Abelard on the Resurrection of 
Lazarus, on Daniel and St. Nicholas, 1 125, still to be read in 


their monkish Latin and interspersed French with directions 
that show their adaptability to matins or vespers. These plays 
of Hilarius belong not to England although their author has 
been thought by some to have been of English birth. Even 
the well known allusion of William Fitzstephen, in his Life 
of Thomas a Bccket (c. 1180), to "the representations of 
miracles wrought by holy confessors, or of the tribulations and 
constancy of martyrs," all enacted in London, leave us in 
doubt as to the language in which they were written and as to 
whether they could have been more than performances, at most 
Anglo-Norman, if not actually imported from France. Indeed 
no such body of saints' plays, as is well known for example in 
France, exists for mediaeval England ; and we are compelled to 
reconstruct from rare mention and by analogy a literature which 
we have reason to believe must once have been.^ When we 
consider how thoroughly under the dominion of the Normans 
both political and clerical life remained from the conquest of 
William almost to the time of Edward III, how the language 
of learning and the Church was Latin, the language of culture 
and of the courts of law Norman-French, and how the ver- 
nacular was despised and neglected by the governing classes, we 
can hardly wonder that traces of this particular kind are so 
few. But there seem, too, to have been other reasons. The 
English taste appears less to have delighted in those extensions 
of Scripture, the Apocrypha and the legends of the saints. Eng- 
lish preference was for the simple bible story; and while the 
English distinguished no more than their mediaeval brethren 
in other lands the facts of history from its fictions, the con- 
creteness of the material of accepted bible story as compared 
with the allegory and vagueness of sacred legend may go far 
to account for this. 

In England, above all other mediaeval countries, do we 
find the growth and enlargement of the bible story, scene by 
scene, carried to its logical conclusion, until from a scene or 
two, illustrative and forming a part of the service, this drama 
developed to an enormous cycle of sacred history, beginning 

2 Beside the scattered mentions of lost plays of St. George, St. 
Laurence, St. Botolph, and others, see the account of Mary Magdalen 
of the Digby MS below and Creizenach's mention of the fragment of 
a miracle play on Duke Moraud, belonging to the fifteenth century. 
Cambridge History of English Literature, v. 40. 


with the creation of man, his fall and banishment from the 
garden of Eden, and extending through the more important 
matters of the Old Testament and the life of Christ in the 
New to the summoning of the quick and the dead on the day 
of final judgment. This kind of drama is called the miracle 
play — sometimes less correctly the mystery play — and it 
flourished throughout England from the reign of Henry II 
to that of Elizabeth and became the parent of a large progeny 
of religious, moral and allegorical productions which in turn 
formed the soil out of which modern drama was later to_ spring. 
Apparently the earliest miracle plays to be performed In Eng- 
land belong to the Eastern Midlands and to a date not far re- 
moved from 1250. Singly or In cycle, records declare their 
existence at scores of places, London, the great sees of Canter- 
bury, York and Winchester, at the universities, and especially 
at the larger market towns of Kent, Essex, Norfolk and other 
counties. Indeed miracle plays became In time a feature of 
the periodical fairs, those w^U known mediseval resorts of barter 
and pleasure; and they were employed on secular occasions to 
celebrate a royal visit, for example, or to signalize some memor- 
able event. Obviously many things attended this extension of 
the drama, and the most notable w^as its secularization. From 
representations on stationary platforms in church, by the clergy, 
at first in Latin, the miracles were transferred to movable 
pageants, or platforms set on wheels, drawn from place to 
place with appropriate decoiatlons and music, acted by trades- 
men's guilds — sometimes by professional actors — and In the 
English language. There Is an interesting old manuscript (now 
often reproduced), showing the arrangement of twenty-two 
platforms in the church at Donauschingen in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, arranged for the performance of a drama dealing with 
the passion. Here the pageants were ordered to correspond 
with the three main divisions of the church, the nave, the 
body of the church and the sanctuary. Hell was placed^ near- 
est the outer doors, heaven, the cross and the sepulchre In the 
sanctuary Itself.^ Plainly here w-as much to stage In a single 
building, however large ; and it Is clear that the pressure of the 
crowd had much to do with taking the miracle play out of 
the churches. But there were other reasons. Early in the 
history of the mediaeval stage certain practices arose even among 

3 This plan is reproduced in Chambers' Media'val Stage, ii, 84. 


the clergy, confused in part with the privileges and license 
accorded to periods of public rejoicing and traceable back to 
pagan times. The Feast of Fools was a New Year's revel 
in which the minor clergy parodied the service and carried on 
loutish tricks. A similar revel, more common in England, was 
the mock election of a Boy Bishop. These and other like 
abuses set the more serious clergy against stage acting, and 
the prohibition of ludi theatrales by Pope Innocent III in 1 207, 
was sometimes interpreted by the more zealous — notably by 
Robert Grosteste the reforming Bishop of Lincoln, in 1244 — 
as directed against all dramas. This helped, too, to secularize 
the drama. On the other hand the institution of the feast of 
Corpus Christ! by Pope Urban, in 12 14, gave a marked impulse 
to the lay performance of religious plays. For the trade-guilds 
in England adopted the miracle play as a feature of the solemn 
procession of the triumphal church with which they were ac- 
customed to celebrate their chief holiday of the year. It was 
thus under the fostering hand of the guilds — out of whose 
body, be it remembered, the civic officers of the mediaeval town 
were recruited — that the miracle play developed into the 
sumptuous and elaborate spectacle that it became; and it is 
owing to the pains with which, in certain cases, the civic records 
were kept and preserved that we owe our first hand knowledge 
of these interesting avocations of our medi:eval forefathers. 

Four cycles of collective miracle plays remain extant and all 
have been carefully reprinted and edited from the original 
manuscripts and studied in themselves and in their relations. 
The earliest manuscript is that of the York Plays and dates 
between 1430 and 1440. The Towneley Plays are not much 
later, and those of Chester and the Ludus Coventriae, as the 
fourth is inaccurately called, follow after in the same century, 
though practically all show signs in certain places of later 
revisions and the performance of some of the scenes must 
date far earlier than the manuscripts. All of these cycles 
begin with the creation or the fall of Lucifer and extend to the 
day of doom; and all deal with comparative brevity of Old 
Testament subjects to centre interest in the birth, the passion 
and the resurrection of Christ. The York Cycle was acted 
yearly by the craft-guilds of that town and is mentioned as long 
in progress, as e.^rly as 1378. It consists of forty-eight scenes 
or plays, each acted by a separate guild. It is written in a 
variety of styles and stanzas and may be regarded as a compila- 



tion rather than the rev sion o a smgle author The Y^rk 
Cycle represents most fully the life and work of Chr st The 
Towneley Plays, it is now believed, were acted by the cratt 
guirds of' Wakefield in Yorkshire at the important fairs held 
at Woodkirk. They consist of a composite, ^^de up of hree 
grouDS and show relation in part to an earlier form of he 
York Plays. But other parts of the work stand out as the 
anonymous composition of a single author whose qualities of 
humour effective satire and homely realism have earned for 
him the title of "our first great comic dramatist, the play 
wHght of Wakefield." The Chester Cycle was acted by craft- 
Tulds at Whitsuntide and shows close relations to the French 
M steredu Viel Testament. It is of somewhat unequal ex- 
«l ence and sophisticated in its effort to achieve dramatic effect 
Unlike the cydes of York and Wakefield it draws on he 
legends of saints for material, and on the Apocrypha Lastly, 
the so-called Ludus Coventriae is not really of Coventry at all. 
It maj possibly have been of Norfolk. Its scenes fall into 
severaUroups, separated by "conclusions" and introduced and 
explained by a personage, called ^ontemplacio. Other ab 
stractions figure among its persons, and it draws on ma ter 
w thout the bounds of scriptural story. It is not altogether c ear 
that the Ludus Coventriae -better called rom a sometime 
owner the He,,e P/.y. - was acted under c^erKal supenasion 
and its scenes appear to have been presented not on movable 
pageants but in " a plevn place on scaffolds 

The four cycles with the scattered scenes and parts of scenes, 
once parts of now lost cycles or existing apart from a consider- 
able bodv of material. Not unlike the mediaeval ballad, we 
have here less the collected work of many individual writers 
than the results of repeated revision and workings over ot 
material, successively adapted to gradually changing conditions 
Save for the bond that makes all before and after, the promise 
and fulfilment of the life of Christ, no -"^^y knits the loo 
succession of scenes. The sanctity^ of their biblical sources 
and a becoming awe for them contrived to keep the more im- 
portant personages- Jesus, the Maries, Joseph and the disci- 
ples -figures of dignity and measurably faithful to their scrip- 
tural models. Neither clumsiness of hand nor dramatic in- 
efficiency could destroy their human and often pathetic appeal; 
while, in some of the finer scenes of York and Towneley, we 


meet with homely but genuine dramatic quality and success. 
As to less important matters, the authors of the old miracles 
drew from their own experience and imagination, giving us, 
again and again, little glimpses into mediaeval character and 
touches of the life that existed about them. The most famous 
example of the last is The Second Shepherds' Play of the 
Towneley Cycle, in which is told the story of a thievish rascal, 
named Mak, with his theft of a sheep from the shepherds, who 
are awaiting for a sign of the coming of Christ on downs, 
unmistakably of \ orkshire and amid the rigours of a York- 
shire winter. In the upshot, Mak gets away with a sheep and 
conceals it in the cradle in his hovel, where it is at last found 
by the shepherds who toss the rogue in a blanket, despite the 
asseverations of Tib, his wife, that the sheep is really a change- 
ling, left unbeknown to her and her honest husband by fairies 
who had spirited her own child away. Here is a bit of actual 
life, cut free from all intent save that of diversion. In such 
scenes English comedy was born. 

From the manuscripts of these old cycles many interesting 
particulars may be gleaned. The pageant at Chester is de- 
scribed as ** a high place made like a house with two rooms, be- 
ing open on the top: in the lower room they appareled and 
dressed themselves; and in the higher room they played: and 
they stood upon six wheels." The decorations were of the 
simplest and apparently the auditors stood on all sides of the 
wagon. However, imaginative realism was not wanting: the 
ark in the pageant of the flood was shaped like a ship, and hell- 
mouth with its flames of fire, its rattling chains and instruments 
of torture, and the grim and hideous semblance of its devils, 
served its purpose, as a deterrent from sin, doubtless as well as 
our bogey, fear of public reprobation. The actors, though ama- 
teurs and trades people, members of the various crafts, received 
each his fee for acting and other services; and long lists of pay- 
ments remain in the records, ^ome of them amusing enough 
to us. One series of entries begins solemnly, " Imprimis to 
God, two shillings," with later entries to Caiaphas and " Pilate 
his wife " netting each four pence more. There are items for 
five sheepskins for " God's coat," for " a slop for Herod," and 
for painting and repairing the devil's head. Among payments 
for theatrical services, one Fawnston is allowed four pence 
" for hanging Judas," to the same artist is paid as much more 


for " cock-crowing." * Apparently the strolling "^inst'-el fa- 
miliar and engaging figure of mediaeval revelry, took his part 
Tn Hghtening'th'e didactic gravity of these serious representa- 
tions of bible story, for we hear of the professional Vice (t a- 
ditional comedy figure, with the devd, of the miracle plays) 
as employed " for his pastime betore the play and afte . Doub - 
less occasionally a young priest or tradesman of histnonic apt - 
tude developed a reputation for his acting above his fellous 
Such a one must have been the minor devil whom Hej^'ood s 
Pardoner met in his infernal journey, one who in lite was 
far^ous for " playing the devil at Coventr>^" As to the settings 
and costumes of these old plays, both preserved an mgenuous 
contemporaneousness in which the variegated and brilliantly 
coloured garments of the different classes of the time lay, cleri- 
cal and official, must have served admirablj^well. Where these 
did not answer, the devices were simple. The suit of a knight s 
old armour clad St. Paul before the miracle at Damascus, a 
bishop's canonicals thereafter, a turban, a crooked sword and 
a bearded face made up for the ranting part of Herod; and 
the nakedness of our first parents in the Garden of Lden was 
clothed rather than suggested in suits o leather or white linen 
Devils were obviously clad in black; black, says the Kng 
of Navarre, in Love's Labours Lost, "is the badge of hell. 
And correspondingly the saints and angels were robed in white 
and their wigs were flaxen. And yet rude, even shocking to 
our more delicate sensibilities, as these old dramas are in places, 
they are neither irreverent nor do they confuse, as did some 
later plays, the elemental laws of right and wrong or sophistica e 
a plain morality. It is ever to be kept in mind that the miracle 
play took its part along side of the picturesque ritual of the 
medieval church in convicting the wayward of a consciousness 
of sin, in bringing the guilty to repentance and in uplifting 
men to a truer appreciation of religion and right living. 
we wonder that dreamers and those that see visions have hoped 
that we might some day restore to the stage its important tunc- 
tion as a guide in religion and morals? 

But, as we have seen, the miracle play was not always acted 

in cycles. Single plays exist which could not have formed parts 

4 For these and many other like particulars see, Thomas Sharp, On 

the Pageants or Dramatic Mysteries anciently performed at Coventry, 

1825, passim. 


of a cycle. Such for example are two plays of the Digby Manu- 
script, which may be dated about 1485. In the one, Mary 
Magdalene, this touching bible story is treated in much the 
manner of its second source, The Golden Legend, and expanded 
with inventive freedom and no mean dramatic aptitude to em- 
brace Mary's earlier life as the sister of Lazarus and Martha, 
with her later conversion of the " King of Marcylle " and final 
apotheosis. The other important play of the Digby Manu- 
script, The Conversion of St. Paul, is scarcely inferior. In 
this substitution of an individual theme in the single miracle 
play for the universal one of the cycle, more was gained from a 
dramatic point of view than was lost. The sanctity of the 
momentous subject, the story of the Saviour, forbade inventive 
freedom to the writers and revisers of the cycles who therefore 
expended their ingenuity on unimportant personages and details. 
It does not seem too much to say that the breaking off of the 
single miracle play from the cycle had the effect of humanizing 
the subjects of these plays and bringing them nearer to the un- 
derstandings and sympathies of their auditors. 

Other influences, however, were ready further to disintegrate 
the old sacred drama. It is one thing to tell, histrionically or 
otherwise, a story and let it convey its own impression ; it is 
another to provide an expositor, as in the Chester Plays, to make 
clear the application. No part of the old sacred drama is free 
from a didactic intention; for that drama existed that it might 
teach, first by symbol and secondly, by actual representation, 
on the stage. This involved very early a new departure. It 
has recently been contended that the actual source of the moral- 
ity play is the homily or illustrative sermon, an important part 
of the services from the earliest times and a part not less readily 
capable of development into dialogue and drama."^ The middle 
ages furnish many examples of compilations intended to guide 
the clergy in the preparation of sermons and furnish them espe- 
cially with illustrative material. These sermonaires were fol- 
lowed by collections of exempla, such as The Alphabet of Tales, 
and they shade off into mere collections of legends of the saints, 
and anecdotes, often involving the allegorical way of present- 
ing things. Without here pursuing this subject into its many in- 
teresting details, we may agree that " The determination to carry 

5 See E. N. S. Thompson, "The English Moral Play," Connecticut 
Academy of Arts and Sciences, Publications, 1910, iv, 303. 


w r.. r.t t>iP rhurch directly to all classes of men and 
the teachings of the chu^f^^^ ^^^ ^^^, interesting way, a 

women ^" .^^^P^/^ '^^'^ ^ clergy to make the sermon, both 
determination that force^ the g^ ^^^^ ^ ^^^.^.^^^ ^^^^^j 

l^dXSly to tt^;crgnition li the drama as a legitimate and 

useful aid." morality the uniform theme is the 

of the soul ''.7"„J'^;,tingia accordance with his name; 
Inr^hTtloroffen of extreme ingenuity, is built upon .heir 
contras s and Muences on human nature w,th the mtent o 
ttih rieht living and uphold religion. In a word, allegory 
(so dear to the mediaeval mind) is the distmgu.shmg mark of 

he mor'al plays. These plays -"^ ™ f '"X th" o ig n 

the miracles. It is customary specifically to reter tne ongui 
of trmoality to the famous allegorical Latin poem 
P.,1.,X written by the poetical churchman P-dennu 
about the year 400 and devoted to a description of the war 
fare between virtues and vices after the Homeric example, as 
Ssles known poem Hamati.ema describes the siege of man s 
soul But Prudentius by no means originated these similitudes 
however he may have amplified the vivid figurative language of 
certain passages of St. Paul, Tertulhan and Cyprian. It is. 
however impossible to overestimate the ^"A^^^ «J^ .^^/^ 
Psvchomachia on medicsval literature at large, and therefore 
fpecificaly on the morality; although we may agree, none the 
ess on the intervening influences of the homdetic and Ike 
wri'tines in which allegorical illustrations abounded and where 
doubtlSs a Targer number of suggestions for moral plays will 
he found than have yet been acknowledged. . . . , 

The morality appears to have taken its position along side 
of The oldermiraclfplays not much before the latter part of^ 
fourteenth century. Such a production was clearly the Play 
iTttTaterNoIter which Wycliff /eports as ' setting forth 
the goodness of our Lord's Prayer, in which play all manner 
o' vices and sins were held up to scorn and the virtues were 
held up to praise." The Play of the Creed acted also at York 
?romU46 onward, seems to have been likewise a species o 
morality Earliest and most typical among extant moralies 
may be named The Castle of Perseverance in which Humanum 
Genus is led away in youth by Temptation and the Seven 


Deadly Sins, but takes refuge, after absolution, in the Castle 
where he withstands the assaults of the Vices, led by the Belial, 
while ecclesiastical exposition and argument are carried on by 
the Virtues. Led once more into sin by Avarice, Death ap- 
pears to call Man to judgment and there ensues a further ar- 
gument between Mercy, Justice, Truth and Peace before the 
throne of God, with the result of Man's final salvation by 
grace. Obviously all this is of the universal stuf? of the ser- 
mons and homilies contemporary with it. The staging of the 
Castle of Perseverance, set forth by diagram in the old manu- 
scripts is exceedingly interesting." The castle, appropriately 
battlemented, was set in the centre of a circular field surrounded 
by a ditch. Beneath the castle was a couch for Humanum Genus; 
and there were five outlying pageants or scaffolds for Caro, 
Mundus, Belial, Coveytyse (covetousness) and Deus. Appar- 
ently the action took place not only on the pageants but on the 
field between them. In this same manuscript are contained 
two other moralities ; Mind, Will, and Understanding, a pro- 
duction involving little more than the amplification in costume 
of a scholastic debate, and Mankind which introduces some gross 
and vulgar comedy in the form of a merry devil, named Tutivil- 
lus, a personage well known under other names to the miracle 
plays. Mankind is not otherwise memorable. 

In these earliest moral plays it is to be noted that the pro- 
tagonist is always an abstraction ; he is Mankind, the Human 
Race, the Pride of Life (as an old fragment is entitled), and 
there is an attempt to compass the whole scope of man's ex- 
perience and temptations in life, as there had been a corre- 
sponding effort in the miracle plays to embrace the complete 
range of sacred history, the life of Christ and the redemption 
of the world. The most notable play of the class is Everyman, 
the earliest printed edition of which belongs to a period between 
1509 and 1530. The existence of a Dutch version, in print 
by 1495, has led to a nice question of priority; but there seems 
now but little doubt that the English play was in writing the 
earlier. In its larger relations Everyman belongs to that con- 
siderable class of the devotional literature of the later middle 
ages best represented by the Ars moriendi, published in Eng- 
lish by Caxton in 1491. In itself it is an attempt to give a 
lively dramatic form to a parable, told in the legend of Barlaam 

*This Is reproduced in T. Sharp's Dissertation, as above, p. 23. 


and Josaphat. The play details how Everyman in the midst 
of a careless life, is suddenly summoned by a dread and hoi ow- 
eyed messenger to prepare for a journey mto a distant land 
whence there is no return. Everyman seeks out Fellowship and 
Kindred, but they offer empty words and refuse him company. 
His hoarded Wealth reviles him for his folly in thinking that 
he, the universal servant, could now serve him. Good Deeds, 
alone, whom Everyman's forgetfulness had suffered to lie 
neglected, offers assistance and helps him to the aid of Knowl- 
edge. As he nears his end, even the Senses must leave him; 
at last Everyman goes down into his grave, penitent and fully 
prepared for the world to come by confession. Every man. is a 
beautiful and touching drama, sustained by a forceable and 
unctuous inculcation of the spirit of England's older faith. As 
seen on the stage in its recent, effective revivals, it was surpris- 
ing to what a degree the abstractions disappeared as such in the 
efficient concreteness of their representation and in the powerful 
enforcement of their underlying spiritual truth. Great must 
have been the effect of this old drama on an age in which it 
spoke directly to its auditors in the language, the faith, and the 
feeling of the day. In our own time the example of Every- 
man has begotten a progeny of contemporary plays, English and 
other, and created, even on the popular stage of Eng and and 
America, a wholesome diversion from the dismal problems and 
trivial improbabilities that for the most part rule there. ^ 

Everyman, however, was an exceptional play, especially in the 
singleness of purpose with which it inculcated religious ideas. 
With the uprise of humanism, in the latter half of the fifteenth 
century, and with the filtering into England of Protestant ideas, 
the morality was at once seized upon to fulfil new functions, 
chiefly ethical and educational and, before long, controversial 
as well. Earlier than Everyman and certainly before 1500, 
Henry Medwell sought, in his moral play called Nature, to show 
"how Sensuality drives away Reason from man's side"; but 
how, in his old age, man must return to Reason. In The 
Nature of the Four Elements, about 1530, John Rastell, if he 
be the author, frankly assumes the pedagogue and treats wearily 
and at length of the knowledge of the day. He is not unaware 
of the awakening of a new spirit of inquiry, adverting with 
animation to the discovery " within these twenty year " of new 
lands beyond the sea. Equally close in their alliance to the 
arguments of the schools, are the several plays that deal with 



the respective merits of Wit, Wisdom and Science, and link 
on to the wide literature of the dialogue, a favourite form of 
expression for the didacticism of the age. A more vital group 
of pedagogical moralities are made up of those that treat of 
the temptations of youth, Lusty Juventus. Hickscorner and The 
Interlude of Youth for example. And closely allied to these, 
though it marks, as has been pointed out, the beginning of the 
breaking up of the allegorical drama, is Skelton's Magnificence. 
This is the only surviving play of that redoubtable old satirist, 
and it is not devoid of much plain and vigorous speaking. 
In moral plays such as these — all of them, in point of date, 
before the Reformation — we have an attempt freely to 
dramatize contemporary life, however the figures represented 
remain abstractions and partake, on their serious side at least, 
of the moralising and allegory of their predecessors. In morali- 
ties of this type, too, the comic element emerges into greater 
prominence in the roistering youth (a figure ever dear to the 
stage) and the dissolute group of vices and revellers that sur- 
round him. The names of Henry Medvvell, who died in 1500, 
and John Skelton (1460-1529), thus stand first in our list of 
known_ English dramatists. Both of these men were of the 
humanist clergy and both of them display the zeal for learning, 
the reforming spirit and the satirical attitude toward abuses 
that brand so unmistakably the Protestant controversialists in 
the drama to come. 

Before taking up the actual humanist drama which links 
on naturally to such moralities as those just enumerated, we 
must turn to the controversial morality, which came to in- 
volve not only matters of doctrine but politics as well. The 
influence of Luther and his quarrel with the church, the ques- 
tions that divided men like Cranmer and Gardiner, that kept 
Sir Thomas More and Erasmus in the mother church and car- 
ried Henry and Cromwell out of it, those violent oscillations 
of opinion and faith that made and unmade England, Protes- 
tant and Roman Catholic, backward and forward, several times 
in a couple of generations — these things need only to be named 
to be remembered. In the midst of such conditions the drama 
was naturally resorted to, that powerful medium of public 
instruction, hallowed by the usages of two hundred years, and, 
the favourite form of the moment being the morality, the 
morality was at once turned to controversial uses. As is always 
the case, the attacking party was more violent and fertile in 



its choice of weapons than its opponents; and the Protestant 
pL^s outnumbered, as they exceeded in v-lence the few re- 
joinders which their triumph suffered to remam extant Ihe 
iarliest play which touched the Reformanon was an attack upon 
Luther, acted in Latin, in 1528, before Cardmal Wolsey Th s 
is no longer extant, and it seems not to have been speedily fol- 
owed b> similar productions. On Henry VI H's break with 
Zme, however, and especially when Cromwell and Cranmer 
advanced the English Reformation more speedily than the 
King's original Intention had seemed to warrant, the Protestant 
play suddenly arose to embitter. If not tl^7>-^ ^\^"^^^^"' '^'^ 
spirit of contention. By 1543 so great had this abuse become 
that a royal decree was promulgated forbidding the public^on 
In songs, plays or Interludes, of any exposition of Holy Wnt, 
opposed to the teachings of the Church as established by his 
niaiesty The foremost dramatic controversialist ot the age 
was the theologian John Bale, who lived between 1495 and 
1S63, and was sometime Bishop of Ossory in Ireland. Bale 
was a zealous and abusively outspoken champion of the new 
faith and an irreconcilable hater of priests and of popery. He 
has left us a catalogue of twenty-two plays, almost all of them 
from their titles, clearly controversial in character. Of these 
several, no longer extant, appear to have formed together a 
species of condensed collective miracle play in a dozen scenes, 
beginning with the childhood of Christ and extending to the 
Resurrection. Among the existing plays of Bale is one the 
lenethv title of which may be condensed into God s promises, 
a species of Prophetae; two others are modelled on scenes of the 
old cycles and treat of John the Baptist and of the Temptation 
in the Wilderness. Of moralltrtype are The Three Laws of 
Nature and King Johan, as well as Bale's translation in 1 545, 
of KIrchmayer's Pammachius. All of these plays are filled with 
abuse of Rome as coarse as voluble and incessant; for liale 
forgot his enemies neither in the pulpit, m his dramas nor in 

'^KingTohan is the most important of Bale's plays, for with 
it new elements enter Into the drama. Although the figure 
of the king is absurdly misrepresented as a Protestant hero 
valiantly withstanding the encroachments of Rome the intorm- 
ing spirit of the whole production is polemic, not political, much 
less historical. Yet among the abstractions by which he is 
surrounded — England, Sedition, Clergy and the rest — Kmg 


Johan himself stands forth, with Cardinal Pandolphus beside 
him, in interest at least actual historical figures. King Johan 
is the earliest dramatic production to draw on the story of the 
English chronicles, later to prove so fruitful in the drama. 
However, King Johan was not the first morality to cloak political 
allusion and satire. As far back as 1527 Cardinal Wolsey 
had taken umbrage at a " moral," entitled Lord Governance, 
acted by students of Gray's Inn, wherein the " misgovernance " 
of " Dissipation and Negligence had like to have ruined Public 
Weal." Indeed, only the plea that the play was twenty years 
old saved the venturesome students from serious pains and 
penalties. In A Satire of the Three Estates, the most elabo- 
rate moral play extant in an English tongue, the Scottish poet, 
Sir David Lyndsay, satirized, with bold effectiveness and direct- 
ness, the abuses, political and clerical, of his own realm, and 
created for the nonce a reforming reaction in the heart and 
in the court of his master. King James V. A Satire of the 
Three Estates was acted before the king at Linlithgow and, 
for the first time, most likely in 1540. Its studied elaboration 
and the completeness of the allegory, its genuine satirical power 
and cutting effectiveness mark the play as the very crown of its 
species. The morality could go no further and it may be sus- 
pected that this famous piece, with its notorious performance 
before the notabilities of the realm of Scotland, served again 
and again as a model for later and lesser moralities of similar 
type.'' Among other later moralities of political intent, may 
be named Respublica acted in the first year of Mary's reign 
and the only extant polemical morality on the Roman Catholic 
side. The two independent investigators have of late attributed 
this morality to Nicholas Udall.* There is also the interesting 
fragment, Albion Kr.ight, printed probably in 1566, in which 
England in abstraction is represented a prey to the contending 
factions of good and evil. 

The popularity of the miracle play was great and its vogue 
spread throughout England. A similar diffusion, as to place, 
and an even greater diversity of occasion, as to presentation, ap- 
pears to have been true of the morality. Moralities were acted 

' See A. Brandl, Quellen des iveltlichen Dramas in England <vor 
Shakespeare, 1898. 

8 L. A. Magnus in his ed. of Respublica, E. E. T. S., 1905; and C. W. 
Wallace, T/ie Evolution of the English Drama, 1912. 


before princes, Lyndsay's Satire, as we have just seen, before 
King James, Skelton's lost Nigromansir at Woodstock before 
King Henry VH, several like moralities and interludes before 
his son and successor. Bale's moralities were variously acted 
in England, at Kilkenny in Ireland, King John in revival at 
Ipswich as late as 1561 ; and neither the universities nor the 
Inns of Court disdained the dramatic form which was charac- 
teristic of its age. In a word the morality was a diversion 
alike the favourite of the court and approved by the people.^ 

We have now reached a period in the history of_ our subject 
at which the true drama emerges out of these chaotic, mediaeval 
conditions ; and that emergence was not single and confined to 
an individual species, but multiform ; for the roots of the chief 
species of drama, later to flourish, strike back deep into these 
earlier times and nearly every kind of play that flourished dur- 
ing the reign of Queen Elizabeth may be found already presaged 
in interlude or morality form. The lineal descendant, so to 
speak, of the miracle play was the bible play, a drama, as we 
understand that term as to unity and constructiveness, founded 
on bible story. Obviously the intermediary between this out- 
come and the cycle of miracle plays is the single scene of this 
last, cut off from the sequence and developed, as it came to be 
before long, into a single play. Such productions are the Con- 
version of St. Paul and the Mary Magdalen of the Digby 
Manuscript; and such other transition plays are some of Bale s, 
already mentioned. It was the finer literary spirit of the Scotch 
humanist and historian George Buchanan, albeit he wrote his 
tragedies in Latin, that realised for the island of his birth the 
possibilities of a modern drama modelled on that of the ancients. 
Buchanan appreciated the admirable qualities of biblical sub- 
jects in their simplicity as well as themes drawn from the 
story of ancient Greece and Rome. His classical tragedies are 
little more than Latin transcripts of the Alcestis and the Medea 
of Euripides ; his Jephtha and Baptistes are original plays though 
constructed in obedient observance of Euripidean rules. These 
tragedies belong to a date close to 1540 when Buchanan was a 
teacher in the college at Bordeaux; and it adds to our interest 
in them to know that they were written with a plain pedagogical 
intent and acted by Buchanan's own students there. In a large 
sense Buchanan is only one of the generation of European 
humanists who were busy in Germany, France and Italy re- 
writing biblical story and devising new allegories with a zealous 


educational purpose. Buchanan was, however, above most of 
these in his appreciation of the literature of the ancients, and 
is memorable as the first man north of the Alps to recognise the 
artistic functions of dramatic art. 

The story of the bible play is not long. We hear of one 
Ralph Radclif, a schoolmaster of Hitchen in Hertfordshire, 
whose zeal for the drama caused him to convert the refectory of 
an old monastery into a theatre wherein were acted many plays 
of his own. Many were biblical in subject, none have es- 
caped the ravages of time. Nicholas Grimald, too, better 
known as the editor of Tottel's Miscellany, the earliest printed 
collection of English lyrical poetry, was the author of two 
later plays of the type, and John Foxe the martyrologist con- 
tributed one. All of these are extant." But even the humanist 
drama was now emerging out of Latin into the vernacular 
tongues. In Godly Queen Hester, printed in 1561, the Vice 
and the abstractions still linger as they do in King Darius, 
1565, and to a lesser degree in Wager's abler Repentance of 
Mary Magdalene, 1 567. All of these plays, and more that 
might be named their contemporaries, are more or less Prot- 
estant in their bias. But the last was acted by a company 
of itinerant players and in the histor>' of Jacob and Esau, 1568, 
we leave the morality behind us and in a measure the miracle 
play as well. For despite its didactic intention, the unknown 
author of this play contrives a " sort of dramatic justification 
of the success of Rebecca's ingenuity " however he turns it " to 
account for the doctrine of predestination and election." 
While little intervening remains, we find the immediate con- 
temporaries of Shakespeare attempting to convert biblical sub- 
jects to performance on the stage. Thus Lodge and Greene 
wrote, between 1587 and 1591, A Looking Glass for London 
in which the wicked life of Rasni, King of Nineveh, and his 
remarkable repentance wrought by Jonah is turned to present 
satirical and moral applications; and, in 1589, Peek's by no 
means ineffective David and Bethsabe was on the stage. This 
was little else than a chronicle play applied to biblical history 
and was in no sense a product of the sacred drama. The same 
is true of later scattered examples some of which we shall meet 

9 Grimald's plays are Christus Redivivus, 1 549, and Archipropheta, 
1547; Foxe's is Christus Triumphans, 1550; all are strictly humanist 


Returning backward to the drama of the humanists, we have 
already noted that a favourite subject for one class of the 
morality was that which dealt with the temptations of youth. 
The biblical prototype, to be sure, of all of these elaborations, 
especially the contrast of the ordered and the evil lifeof the 
young, is the parable of the prodigal son, a common subject for 
continental humanists. Among these plays an important one 
was Acolastus of the Dutch classical scholar, William de Voider, 
first acted by schoolboys at the Hague in 1528 and so popular 
in England, some dozen years later, that it was made into a 
text book by John Palsgrave for the teaching of Latin. Three 
" moral interludes " in English are modelled, more or less, im- 
mediately on Acolastus or on work that Acolastus inspired. 
These are The Nice Wanton, The Disobedient Child and 
Misogonus, ranging in point of date from the close of the 
reign of Henry VHI to within a year or so of the birth of 
Shakespeare. A more important production, from the_ literary 
point of view, and one marking the culmination of this school 
drama, as it has been called, is The Glass of Government, the 
work of the notable court poet George Gascoigne, published in 
1575. Here the effect of the story is heightened by the con- 
trast of two pairs of brothers especially in their students' life 
at a modern university, and Terentian situation is employed, 
after the manner of the elder humanists, to illustrate Christian 
morals. The Glass of Government is a play of merit, regu- 
lar in construction, light of touch on occasion and couched in 
ready dialogue, even if the intent to teach remains ever pres- 
ent in the author's mind. It would be interesting to know to 
what extent some unrecorded visit of its courtier author to one 
of the Dutch schools, while he was a soldier in Holland, may 
have inspired this effort. Save for a few later university plays 
this was the last humanist drama in England. The recurrence 
of the theme of the prodigal son in subsequent comedies of 
manners will claim later attention. 

We have already met with the term " interlude " in the con- 
notation of moral interlude ; and the word was loosely employed 
to designate almost any form of play from very early times. 
Whether w^e accept the older explanation which makes the in- 
terlude a dramatic intermezzo between more serious scenes or 
intervening elsewhere between the parts of some extended en- 
tertainment, or whether we define the word with Chambers as 
simply a dramatic dialogue, it is well to recognise that the in- 


terlude emphasises the element of diversion for its own sake 
as contrasted with the didactic character of all varieties of 
sacred and moral plays. The history of the earlier interlude is 
wrapped up with that of disguising and mumming; and this in 
turn takes us back to the festivals of the folk. Lydgate in the 
fifteenth century gave a literary bias to certain of the mummings 
at court ; and pageantry there, following the analogy of that long 
invoked for religious plays, developed quite early into consider- 
able elaboration. ^"^ So far as the interlude is concerned, there 
are only scant indications of the existence in mediaeval England 
of a light secular drama, such as we know to have flourished 
in contemporary France. And yet the fragments of plays on 
Robin Hood, dramatized from the ballads, the many mentions 
of plays of St. George, which may have been only partially re- 
ligious, together with what we can gleam as to the repertory of 
the minstrels, all point towards a drama of this type, largely 
extemporaneous and perhaps little of it written down for pres- 
ervation. Examples of the interlude in the sense of a scene of 
diversion are to be found in the miracle plays and moralities 
themselves. Such is the scene of Mak and the Shepherds in 
the Towneley Cycle, and such an interlude is that of Pauper 
between the first and second parts of Lyndsay's Satire of the 
Three Estates in which that unhappy victim of greed and im- 
position makes clear his wrongs in a ludicrous recital of them. 
But the credit of raising the interlude to an independent place 
among dramatic forms I can not but feel, still belongs to John 
Heywood, the epigrammatist, poet and privileged wit of the 
household of Henry VHI.^^ The dialogues and interludes usu- 

10 On the mumming of Lydgate, sec Brotanek, Die englischen 
Maskenspiele, p. 305, and Anglia xxH, 364. Wallace finds the chil- 
dren of the Chapel first employed " in a pageant and song " in 1490. 
Evolution of the English Drama, p. 13. 

11 In repeating this statement, I am not unaware of a recent effort 
by my friend, Professor Wallace, to overturn our accepted notions 
concerning the beginnings of the regular drama and to deprive Hey- 
wood of the better part of his work. See his The Evolution of the 
English Drama, 1913, especially pp. 33-60. This attempt involves the 
raising up of William Cornish into what Mr. Wallace calls an " Oc- 
tavian Shakespeare" and the interpretation of the pageants, disguis- 
ings and entertainments in which Cornish figured as actor, deviser 
and lyrist into successive steps of momentous import in the evolution 


ally ascribed to Heyvvood He, in point of date, between 152O and 
1540 and cover some little variety in subject. Love and Wit 
and Witless are little more than debats of which the earlier 
annals of France and England alike exhibit many similar exam- 
ples. In The Play of the Weather the dialogue is extended 
with reminiscences of the methods of the morality into a more 
original production. Jupiter, in consequence of a disagreement 
among the gods ruling the weather, summons before him people 
of various degrees to learn their wants and thereby determine 
the question. Merry Report, who acts as usher, is a clever 
adaptation of the Vice and the fun consists in the conflict of 
wishes and arguments presented by personages such as the 
Ranger, the Wind and the Water-miller and the Fair Dame. 
But it is in the other three interludes of Heywood that we find 
his most characteristic contributions to the drama. " A Merry 
Play," as it is called, " between the Pardoner and the Frere, the 
Curate and the Neighbour Pratt " sets its scene in a church and 
develops an amusing but exceedingly scandalous altercation ; 
a second equally " Merry Play," vivaciously sets forth how 
Tyb, a shrewish wife, and Sir Jhan, the priest, make a victim 
of a timid though by no means complaisant husband and force 
him to fetch and carry; while the last, the famous Four P's, 
ends in a match at lying. In the figure, just named, and in 
the Pardoner, the Palmer, the Pedler and the " Poticary " of 
The Four P's, the drafts from copy of the miracle play and 
the abstractions of the morality are left once and for all be- 
hind us; for whatever the suggestions of source for these inter- 

of the drama. Cornish was master of the Chapel from 1509 to 1523 
and we have actual proof that he was the author of one " play," The 
Triumph of Love and Beauty, cited by Collier as far back as 1833. 
Mr. Wallace hands over to Cornish a story of Troilus and Pandor 
(lost but cited in The Household Books of Henry VHI, i, 169, not 
however as by Cornish). He hands over to Cornish likewise Hey- 
wood's Four P's, Johan Johan and Gentleness and Nobility, in one 
case because Heywood's name is not on the title page, in another, 
questioning the contemporary title and Bale's equally contemporary as- 
cription of the work to He\^vood. He further assigns the morality 
of the Four Elements and Calista and Meliboea, productions amazingly 
diverse, also to Cornish, because, he says " no other dramatist was then 
living who had either the opportunity or impetus or skill to work in 
the manner of his new style drama." 


ludes from France, Heywood sketched his figures from the Eng- 
lish life that he saw about him and found, in fidelity to that 
life and in a humorous appreciation of its personages, his 
real success. Henceforward English vernacular comedy had at 
least an example, and the step through such an interlude as the 
anonymous Tom Tyler and his Wife, about 1 560, in which a 
shrewish wife maintains her ascendency despite an attempted 
marital revolt, to Gammer Gurton's Needle (earliest regular 
comedy of the realistic type), becomes a measurable one. 

With semi-moralities like The Disobedient Child of Thomas 
Ingeland referred to Ravisius Textor, the French humanist, 
with Henry Cheke, translating the Italian Bassano's tragedy of 
Freewill, in 1546, and Everyman and Acolastus touching Dutch 
humanism, it is clear that the forebears of English drama were 
not without many foreign examples. But there were influences 
deeper than this, derived from the classics and breathed in with 
the education of the day. Humanism was founded on a study 
of the ancients and on the application of that study to the prob- 
lems educational and other of the day ; and the drama of the 
humanists seized at once on the plays of Terence and Plautus 
especially as its guides and examples for comedy. Not only 
were these authors commonly read and frequently acted in the 
schools, but they were translated and imitated in adaptation 
to the condition of the time. The interlude of Thersites, 1537, 
goes back, with the intervention once more of Textor, to the 
Miles Gloriostts of Plautus, and Jack Juggler, 1 553, is similarly 
modelled on the Amphitruo. Even earlier, in 1530, Terens in 
English had appeared, though Terence was not so often imi- 
tated. Thus when Nicholas Udall, sometime master of West- 
minster School as earlier of Eton, wrote and staged his Ralph 
Roister Doister, he was really doing in itself no novel thing, 
though the step that he took was momentous in the English 
drama. This famous comedy tells how the boastful and thick- 
witted hero of the title name considers it certain, in Benedick's 
phrase, that he " is beloved of all ladies," and how, abetted by a 
rascally flatterer, Matthew Merrigreke, Ralph persists in court- 
ing Dame Custance against her will and proceeds through a 
series of amusing rebuffs to his final discomfiture. Udall's 
comedy is an adaptation of the Miles Gloriosus to English 
manners and conditions; and it is cleverly constructed and well 
and cleanly written. It was probably prepared for Eton boys 
who acted it between 1534 and 1541, and it thus preceded many 


productions that remained more or less affected by imitations 
of the older drama.^^ 

Several plays, however, may be named which have been held 
for various reasons to dispute with Ralph Roister Doister and 
Gammer Gurtons Needle the claims of these plays to the posi- 
tion of the first regular English comedy. Misogonus and 
Jacob and Esau have both been already mentioned. Aside from 
their affiliations with the biblical humanist drama, neither can 
be dated with certainty earlier than Gammer Gurtons Needle, 
1552-53. With Thersites, 1537, and Calisto and Meliboea. 
1530, the questions that arise are of another kind. Thersites 
is an exceedingly lively little burlesque in which is set forth 
the vaunts of a childish boaster and their ludicrous consequences 
to him, an enormous snail putting him to flight and to the pro- 
tection of his mother's apron in one scene. The play is an 
adaptation from a Latin original by Textor, somewhat improved 
and abbreviated in the process. The merit of Thersites lies in 
its freedom from any ulterior motive; it exists solely for the 
laughter it may raise and conceals neither bearings on man's 
conduct in life nor side lights of moral suasion. But all this 
was equally true of the interludes of Heywood ; moreover, 
Thersites is a slight affair of a few scenes and, besides, lacking 
the structure of a complete drama, is little more than a transla- 
tion. The interlude of Thersites stands in the same relation 
to Ralph Roister Doister that the interludes of Heywood or 
Tom Tyler and his Wife hold with respect to Gammer Gur- 
ton. Calisto and Meliboea, on the other hand, is a care- 
fully considered play, worked out at length and in detail, 
setting forth a romantic love story, the first important ex- 
ample of its kind in the drama. A young gallant, Calisto, 
has a passion for Meliboea, a fair lady who dislikes him. 
Through the endeavours of an old crone, Celestina, however, 
Meliboea is at length won to consent to lend Calisto her girdle 
— figurative of a less innocent concession — to recover him from 
a pretended illness ; but repenting, confesses her indiscretion to 
her father and is by him forgiven. We have here the earliest 
serious play to rid itself of allegory and abstraction, besides a 

12 See the excellent summary of the whole discussion by C. G. 
Child in his edition of Ralph Roister Doister, 1912, pp. 31-42; I can 
not but feel that Hale's date, 1553, accepted by Wallace, is quite un- 


diction and quality of style decidedly beyond its age. But 
Calisto and Meliboea is even more closely a translation than 
Thersites, its original being the famous Spanish tale in dramatic 
form, Celestina, attributed to the authorship of Rojas and first 
published in 1499. Besides, the unknown English translator 
in his version departs from his source to convert a tragedy, the 
logical outcome of the story, into a " moral interlude," end- 
ing in an " exhortacyon to vertevv." The claims of Calisto 
and Meliboea with all its merits are damaged alike by this 
moral intrusion, inevitable in its age and even yet the bane of 
British drama, and by the circumstance that the play is merely 
a translation. 

As between Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer Gurton, 
priority in time belongs to the former, and only the degree of 
Udall's debt to Plautus, which is easily exaggerated, can im- 
pair his claim. Gammer Gurton s Needle is a coarse but ex- 
ceedingly vigorous comedy of daily English village life; its 
figures are as real as Heywood's, its structure as a complete 
drama away and beyond him. The comedy appears to have 
been first acted at Cambridge in 1552-53 and has been variously 
assigned as to authorship to Bishop Still, Dr. John Brydges and 
to William Stevenson, the last in the early fifties fellow of 
Christ Church. The whole action turns on the loss of a needle, 
conceivably a more valuable implement in that day than now, 
and the manner in which knavish Diccon of Bedlam sets the 
village by the ears about it. A conclusion is reached by ex- 
cellent Gammer Gurton who finds the needle at last exactly 
where she had left it. If freedom from dependence on foreign 
sources or any intention to teach, a due consideration of struc- 
ture and amplitude of design be taken into account, together 
with direct sketching from contemporary life, then Gammer 
Gurton s Needle is our earliest regular English comedy. Per- 
haps, however, when all has been said, it is best to observe that 
our English drama emerged out of the didactic state of the 
moralities and from the trivialities of the interlude all but 
simultaneously in several forms. Jacob and Esau marks the 
way from the old sacred drama to the bible play; The Diso- 
bedient Child or Misogonus, the growth from morality, through 
the humanist college drama to a comedy measurably free from 
the intent to teach. In Calisto and Meliboea (as in the earlier 
tragical Freewill) romantic material of foreign origin is 
broached, although the intent to point a moral still rules. 


While in Thersites and Ralph Roister Doister the influence of 
classical comedy appears in transition from interlude to comedy 
form; and in Tom Tyler and Gammer Gurton's Needle the 
same transition with the realistic present in place of the bookish 
past its inspiration. Lastly, to turn from comedy, King Johan 
equally marks the emergence of the morality into a recognition 
of national history as a theme for drama, precisely as the 
Euripidean tragedies of Buchanan call into requisition the finest 
models of the past for tragedy. 

Tragedy in regular form and in English was later to emerge 
from the past than comedy; and the influence here, soon sub- 
stituted for that of Euripides, was Seneca, the tragic writer of 
Neronian Rom'e. The first regular English tragedy is the 
well known Gorboduc or Ferrex and Porrex, the work of 
Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton, students of the Inner 
Temple where their play was acted before the queen on New 
Year's day 1562. Much in the way of like classical imitations 
had gone before, but these were mostly college dramas and all 
were in Latin. Gorboduc tells the story of an unwise king of 
England who, like Lear, divided his kingdom with his children, 
two sons, who fought to the death for supremacy.^ It is a 
stately and well constructed tragedy. To its distinction as the 
earliest tragedy in the English language of anything like 
regular structure, Gorboduc adds the circumstance that it is the 
first play to be written throughout in blank-verse and one of the 
earliest to draw on English chronicle history for a subject. This 
with its Senecan relations will claim a later consideration. 



When Gorboduc was staged, three years were yet to elapse 
before the birth of Marlowe and Shakespeare; and John Lyly, 
first important literary name in the annals of English drama, 
was a boy not yet ready for school. But much was to pass 
before the drama came into the hands of these greater men. 
Gorboduc was first written and acted by students of the Inns 
of Court in the presence of the queen ; Gammer Gurton was a 
college play; Ralph Roister Doister was the work of a school- 
master, written for his scholars and acted by them. Even 
the earlier plays at court, performed by the gentlemen and 
children of the Chapel Royal, were matters of the king's house- 
hold. Clearly we are dealing with an amateur drama as yet, 
and one as apart from the bourgeois civic character of the old 
sacred drama as it long remained distinguishable from the pro- 
fessional drama soon to spring into celebrity. 

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of the 
court and the queen on the early pre-Shakespearean drama. 
Elizabeth was pleasure-loving by nature and fond of elaborate 
and stately ceremonies and sumptuous display. She was like- 
wise in her way a patron of learning and an encourager of 
poetry and art; in a word, Elizabeth was a true daughter of 
the Renaissance. As to the drama, she found all the forms for 
its encouragement made ready to her hand. In employing 
them she was only continuing a long established usage. The 
beginnings of pageantry and disguisings at court are lost in an 
immemorial past ; and the royal records and account books, even 
the chronicle histories, are full of recitals of the devices of poets, 
of pageantry, music and other entertainments in which figure 
Lords of Misrule, masters, gentlemen and children of the 
Royal Chapel and occasionally other entertainers, both 
English and foreign. Moralities and interludes were among 
these entertainments and those concerned in them acquired, 
as time went on, a more or less professional standing. 



The Office of the Revels, originally perhaps no more 
than a temporary appointment, had become since the days 
of Sir Thomas Cawarden in Henry VHI's reign, a place 
of importance, charged with the supervision of the entertain- 
ments at court. Elizabeth further developed and enlarged its 
functions until, by the advent of Shakespeare in London, the 
Office consisted of a master, a cleric controller, a clerk and a 
yeoman of the wardrobe and properties. The mastership soon 
came to guide and control the histrionic activity of the age, and, 
from its power to license plays and to suppress even at need 
recalcitrant players and their playhouses, rose before long to 
an office of dignity. Sir Edmund Tylney, master from 1579 
to 1610, thus covering the whole important period of Eliza- 
bethan drama, administered this office to the satisfaction of the 
queen and King James after her, and with no small emolument 
to himself. It was this office that Lyly sought in the seventies 
and the reversion of which in the reign of King Charles, Ben 
Jonson did not live to enjoy. We shall meet with its in- 
tervention in the affairs of the drama more than once in the 
following pages. 

We have already found Nicholas Udall preparing his Ralph 
Roister Doister for boys to act, and have recognised that the 
custom of acting plays by the students of schools extends back 
to very early times. With an increasing demand for plays 
at court and the exaction of a higher grade of histrionic ability, 
these boy troupes, trained and drilled in acting under the 
ferrules of their schoolmasters, were gradually called upon to 
take their place beside the children of the Chapel Royal as en- 
tertainers of the queen. Thus it was that school boys and choir 
boys became our first professional actors and that schoolmasters 
like John Taylor and William Elderton, Udall's successors at 
Westminster School, and Thomas Gyles, Richard Farrant, and 
Richard Bower, masters respectively of St. Paul's choir, the 
Chapel Royal at Windsor and the Queen's Chapel, were the 
first professional managers and playwrights. The actual con- 
tributions of the men just named to the drama are for the 
most part conjectural and based on entries in the records of the 
Office of the Revels and the like.^ With Richard Edwards 

1 See the valuable " Table of Plays and Masques before Queen 
Elizabeth," 1558-85, by C. W. Wallace, Evolution of the Drama, pp. 


(who died in 1566), and William Hunnis (active up to 1583), 
both of them successors of Bower as masters of the Queen's 
Chapel, we are on somewhat sounder ground. Damon 
and Pithias by Edwards, acted at Whitehall at Christ- 
mas, 1564, is extant to show that its author was neither without 
theories concerning the comedian's art nor devoid of ideas as 
to the dignity of the drama. Two years later, at Oxford, his 
dramatic version of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, entitled Falaemon 
and Arcyte, was acted before the queen, greatly to her majesty's 
satisfaction. But this play has been lost. Edwards has been 
thought the author of other plays; while the list ascribed to 
Hunnis has been enlarged to formidable proportions, though 
really nothing remains to us to be referred with certainty to his 
hand.2 Hunnis retained his position up to 1597 when he was 
succeeded by Nathaniel Gyles who abused the royal patent to 
take up children who could sing for the royal choir by actually 
kidnapping schoolboys and training them by force to act plays 
for his own emolument. 

Turning back to another phase of the drama in earlier Eliz- 
abethan days, the studies of young gentlemen were based on 
the classics and this, with a growing interest in tragedy, re- 
sulted in an enthusiastic cultivation of Seneca. Moreover, in 
Italy and France alike, tragedy in the manner of Seneca was 
the literary affectation of the moment. Between 1559 and 1581 
the Tenne Tragedies, that then went under the name of the 
Roman poet, were translated into English by various hands; 
and the plays were acted and imitated again and again in Latin 
dramas at college. Reasons for the choice of Seneca for a 
model are not far to seek. Seneca is the most modern of the 
ancients and the most romantic of the classics. His heightened 
style, his moralising, his lofty commonplaces unctuously ex- 
pressed, even his sensationalism, his blood and terror, all fell 
in naturally with the temper of the young romantic age. \Vhile 
his professional manner, show of technique, his conventional 
verse and rhetoric, equally suited the time. Besides, Seneca was 
the most available model; his vehicle was Latin, the uni- 
versal language of scholarship, and neither so remote as the 
Greek tragedians nor lacking in sanction as were most of the 
moderns. One of the distinctions of Gorboduc was its choice 

2 For surmises on the subject, see Mrs. C. M. Stopes: Shakespeare 
Jahrbuch, xxvii and elsewhere. 


of an English myth. But this particular myth, the dissensions 
of two princes, brothers, for a kingdom, to the destruction of 
both, was prompted by its similarity to the well known Greek 
story of the Theban Eteocles and Polynices, also treated by 
Seneca. The next Senecan tragedy of note in English was 
Gascoigne's Jocasta. Gascoigne's was also an Inns of Court 
play, acted at Gray's Inn before the queen in 1566. The plot 
returns to a classical subject and is really not much more than 
an adaptation of Dolce's Italian tragedy, Giocasta. Of George 
Gascoigne's contribution to the school drama, The Glass of 
Government we have already heard. He was less a scholar 
than a courtier and while his satire, fiction and general poetry 
do not concern us here, he touched the drama at two other 
points, in comedy and in pageantry in which he was " a prime 
contriver." In the year 1576, Queen Elizabeth^ went_ on one 
of her periodical progresses among her loving subjects, journey- 
ing to Kenilworth Castle, the seat of the famous Earl of 
Leicester, whom rumour said at the moment she was likely to 
marry. In the splendid welcome which the earl accorded her 
majesty and which Sir Walter Scott immortalised in Kenil- 
worth, Gascoigne was one of the several poets employed to 
frame speeches of welcome and allegorical scenes — one among 
them setting forth the advantages of matrimony on the recom- 
mendation of Juno to the confusion of Minerva. While space 
will not permit here a specification of Gascoigne's contributions 
with those of his fellows to what afterwards developed Into the 
masque. It may be remarked that the pageantry of the progress 
is not to be neglected In the earlier annals of the drama. At 
court the custom of giving plays to signalise occasions of social 
importance became before long the thing obvious and expected. 
Gascoigne marks the step from sheer amateurs like Sackville, 
Norton or Hughes, to the playwright and professional deviser 
of entertainments. Legge, In his Latin Richardus Tertius, 
1579, first employed later English chronicles for the subject of 
a Senecan play; and Peele, In Locrine, 1586 (if it be his), and 
Thomas Hughes and others In their joint tragedy. The Mis- 
fortunes of Arthur, 1587, continued the working of English 
myth in this kind. With the last two plays and others of like 
type we are on the threshold of the new romantic drama, for 
The Spanish Tragedy was on the stage in the latter year._ 

The repertory of the early semi-professional companies of 
boy actors included plays on ancient history and fable; plays 


founded, to judge by their titles, on modern history or recent 
occurrence; romantic stories, comedies, and mere farces. Among 
many titles the following are typical : Pompey, Narcissus; The 
King of Scots, like Narcissus ascribed to Hunnis; Murderous 
Michael, possibly an earlier version of the notable murder play, 
Arden of Feversham; Jack and Gill and The History of the 
Collier, in all likelihood the extant Grim, the Collier of Croy- 
don. Most of the types of plays just mentioned are illustrated 
in extant specimens of the period. Among them may be named 
Godly Queen Hester, 1561, Appius and Virginia, 1563, King 
Darius, 1 565, Pickering's Orestes, 1567, and most popular for 
its day, Preston's Cambyses. Thomas Preston was a Cambridge 
man who rose in time to the dignity of Master of Trinity. His 
abilities in disputation and cleverness in acting a part in Gager's 
Latin tragedy, Dido, on the occasion of the queen's visit to the 
university in 1566, had called him to Elizabeth's attention and 
doubtless for the moment determined his career. Cambyses, 
King of Persia, acted about 1569, smacks of the old allegorical 
drama and is not a little morally weighted ; but its grandilo- 
quence and bombast of tone was long appreciated, at first seri- 
ously, later as a theme for ridicule, especially by Shakespeare. In 
truth, allegory and a moral purpose, forced on the understand- 
ing, remained general qualities of this pre-Lylian drama save 
for a very few exceptions. But these exceptions mark the vital 
stock of what was to come. In the preface to a narrative poem 
by Arthur Brooke, entitled The Tragical History of Romeus 
and Juliet, we read : " I saw the same argument lately set 
forth on stage with more commendation than I can look for." 
This was two years before the birth of Shakespeare. Several 
years later, in 1579, we hear of another Shakespearean sub- 
ject in a play mentioned by Stephen Gosson as expressing " the 
greediness of worldly choosers (Portia's unsuccessful suitors), 
and the bloody minds of usurers (Shylock's implacable pursuit 
of the pound of flesh.) ^ To turn from what is lost to what 
we have, Gascoigne's Supposes is a lively comedy constructed 
on a series of suppositions ("supposes") that turn out — like 
the comedy of "errors" — contrariwise. Acted in 1566, this 
is the first successful adaptation of an Italian comedy and the 

3 The Cruel Debtor, 1566, supposed formerly to be on this subject 
turns out otherwise. See The Malone Society's Publications, " Collec- 
tions IV and V," 1911, pp. 313 ff. 


earliest example of a play written throughout in English prose. 
Two years later Gismond of Salem, from an Italian novella 
of that title was staged, the work of five young gentlemen of 
the Inner Temple, chief among them Robert Wilmot who later, 
in 1591, rewrote and published the entire drama as his own. 
Tancred and Gismunda, as it was called in revision, is a Senecan 
tragedy in manner; but, as the earliest English play to lay under 
contribution that storehouse of Italian fiction. Painter's Palace 
of Pleasure, it partook of the new romantic spirit which was so 
soon to rule the serious drama of the age. Gismond is de- 
clamatory but its tragic love story, the clandestine meetings of 
the lovers, the father's revenge and presentation of her dead 
lover's heart to his daughter in an urn, with her tragic death 
— all this, crude though it be, is in long advance of the correct 
morality that spoiled the story of Calisto and Meliboea. More 
in touch after all with older methods is George Whetstone's 
formidable drama in two parts. Promos and Cassandra, 1578. 
The subject, referable to a novel of the Hecatommithi of Cin- 
thio, is memorable for its after treatment by Shakespeare in his 
Measure for Measure. Whetstone was a small poet and friend 
of Gascoigne whose memory he celebrated in dull elegiac lines. 
He is full of theory as to dramatic writing and says more than 
is needful on the subject in his dedication. However, though 
free from the bonds of Seneca, which Wilmot and his confreres 
were certainly not. Whetstone has left but an awkward, gross 
and verbose original for the art of his great successor to fashion. 
Supposes, Gismond of Salern, and Promos and Cassandra 
mark, in drama, a new impulse derived from Italy direct. The 
immediate models and inspiration of Lyly, however, were not 
these. John Lyly was born in Kent, about 1554, and was 
therefore of an age with Spenser. It has recently been shown 
that Lyly came of excellent family, his grandfather being no 
less a person than the distinguished scholar and grammarian, 
William Lyly; John Lyly's father was Registrar of his native 
Canterbury. Lyly received his education at Oxford, with a 
later sojourn at Cambridge, and enjoyed the patronage of Bur- 
leigh and especially of Lord Oxford to whose service he was 
for years attached. Oxford was known to his age as a writer 
of comedies now lost and he maintained at least one company 
of actors, so Lyly's induction as an entertainer at Court was a 
natural one. In 1579 Lyly leaped to instant literary repute 


by the publication of his famous prose romance, Euphues, the 
Anatomy of Wit, followed in the next year by Euphues and his 
England. His plays seem to have begun with Campaspe, staged 
first, it has been supposed, about 1580 at Blackfriars and, later, 
by a combination of the Children of Pauls with those of the 
Royal Chapel at court. 

Recent researches inform us that Farrant, master of the 
children at Windsor, obtaining a lease of certain properties 
that had belonged to the Revels' Office in Carwarden's time, 
converted them into "a regular theatre," in 1576, about the 
time at which Burbage was opening his new Theatre in Shore- 
ditch; that under Farrant's management up to 1580, the drama, 
acted by the boy companies, thrived in his hands, and that he 
used his theatre to train not only his own children of Windsor 
for performances before the queen, but those of the Chapel 
Royal of whom Hunnis was master, the two masters thus 
" pooling " their theatrical interests. The children of Black- 
friars play a very important part in the early history of the 
drama, although the increasing vogue of the adult companies, 
as disclosed by the records of performances at court, created a 
rivalry, happy for the development of the histrionic art. Far- 
rant died towards the end of 1880, and his widow assigned his 
lease to Hlinnis, who as master of the Chapel Royal was able 
to continue the double function of his playhouse as a public 
theatre and a training house for performances before the 
queen. But before long trouble arose between the owner, 
Farrant's widow, Hunnis and an associate of his in the conduct 
of the theatre named John Newman. Into these details we 
cannot go. By a contemporary letter recently discovered and 
printed, it appears that in the spring of 1583, the Earl of 
Oxford acquired the lease of the playhouse in Blackfriars. This 
interest, according to the same letter, the earl " gave " to Lyly 
with other houses adjacent. It is not clear that this transfer 
was more than a part of the vexatious defence, put up by the 
widow of Farrant, to prevent the owner from re-entering the 
premises. At any rate Lyly did not enjoy his lease a full 
year, for the owner won his suit. Campaspe and Sapho and 
Phao were acted, according to their title pages, by a conjunc- 
tion of the Chapel Children with the Paul's Boys and payments 
were made, according to the accounts of the Audit Office, to 
the Earl of Oxford his servants for " two plays " on New 


Year's night and Shrove Tuesday, 1583-84.-* But this does not 
" prove " these plays to have been Campaspe and Sapho and 
Phao, or that the Earl of Oxford's servants were the children 
of the chapel and the boys of Paul's organised into one com- 
pany under the leadership of Lyly. 

Leaving these mooted questions, it is to be remarked that 
Lyly was a born courtier and that all of his literary work was 
prompted by the moment and calculated alone to the end of his 
own advancement. He was constantly in attendance at court 
and became in due time one of the queen's " esquires of the 
body." He served in parliament and married well, considering 
his want of any stable fortune ; and he appears to have been for 
years an applicant for a post in the Office of the Revels. This 
he was never able to procure, though it may be doubted if there 
was a fitter man for the mastership in all England. However, 
his plays met with a deserved success from the first for their 
courtliness, their choice euphuistic prose diction and their nicety 
of expression; perhaps even more for their allegory and covert 
allusions to matters of passing political interest in the inner 
court circle which Lyly made one of their features almost from 
the first. For example, Sapho and Phao dared allusions in 
allegory to the royal flirtation with her majesty's French suitor, 
the homely and insignificant D'Alengon ; Midas, the ancient 
king at whose touch and by whose greed all things were turned 
to gold, figured forth in a drama of that title, the master of the 
Indies and arch enemy of England, King Philip of Spain ; and 
Endimion, 1585, among the complications and contradictions 
of recent interpretations, long supposed to refer somehow to the 
only serious affair of the heart which the Virgin Queen seems 
ever to have had, (her preference, if not her " infatuation "for 
the Earl of Leicester), must now be interpreted into the wider 
political significance that leaves Elizabeth Cythia (the unattain- 
able moon), but makes Tellus (the earth) the captive Mary of 
Scots and Endimion no less a personage than her canny, un- 
stable, intriguing son. King James.^ Dramas of this type are 
dependent for their success as much on their happy power of 
topical allusion, addressed to the limited and understanding 

4 On this whole subject, see Wallace, as above (especially pp. 174 
and 224 ff.), whose researches now clear up a matter long doubtful. 

5 See on this topic A. Feuillerat, John Lyly, 1910, pp. 141-190 where 
the previous theories are likewise discussed. 


audience of the moment, as they are on their inventiveness and 
literary merit. The former we can no more recover than we 
can restore the colours of a tropical fish, once removed from its 
native element. It may be inferred that these comedies of Lyly 
in their natural court environment must have had an effective- 
ness which it is difficult for us to imagine. From these model 
and carefully written comedies all coarseness and vulgarity was 
banished, the ribaldry of the common folk, and with it the rude 
practical jests of the old comedy. The figures of Lyly's plays 
realised the manners and the precious euphuistic speech that the 
fashionable courtier and lady were striving to attain. It is no 
wonder that on the basis of his successful Anatomy of Wit, its 
continuance in Euphues and his England and these taking court 
plays, Lyly was, up to the year of the Armada, the literary man 
of the moment. 

However, not quite all of Lyly's comedies were so heavily 
freighted with matter of purely contemporary moment. Cam- 
paspe itself is not much more than a " fanciful rendering of a 
classical legend "; Mother Bombie, 1590, is a comedy of every 
day life in the manner of Terence, but cleverly original ; while 
Gallathea, Love's Metamorphosis and The IVoman in the 
Moon are pastoral comedies cast in mythological mould and 
employing little more allegory than was useful to carry a strain 
of compliment to the queen. As to Lyly's art in general, it is 
interesting to notice how effectively he developed what he found 
ready at hand. The old allegory of mere abstraction turned 
in his hands (as in Spenser's) to a reflex reference to persons 
and things concrete with the result of an enormous gain in in- 
terest. The classical apparatus of the humanists, with its dis- 
play of ponderous learning, became the winged shaft of myth- 
ological allusion or the utilisation, for picturesque subject- 
matter, of material from that admirable body of classical story 
which the combined ingenuity of modern ages has never ap- 
proached. True, only a Renaissance audience could appreciate 
to the full an art so dependent on a specific kind of culture; 
but Lyly's audience was just such a one, made up of high born, 
cultivated, finely tempered folk, alive to every allusion and as 
keen of wit and ready at repartee almost as the dramatist's own 
clever figures. To the several things already mentioned as 
going to make up Lyly's art of court comedy, must be added 
his efifective employment of the pastoral motive in the three 
comedies mentioned above in this connection. Lyly may have 


found his suggestion in some of the entertainments of Gas- 
coigne, or more effectively in Sir Philip Sidney's little pastoral 
interlude, The Lady of May, produced for the entertainment 
of Elizabeth at Wansted, in 1578. But if we would under- 
stand by what steps Lyly advanced the drama we should com- 
pare this pretty trifle with Lyly's Gallathea or such a play as 
Endimion with the anonymous Rare Triumphs of Love and 
Fortune, acted perhaps about 1582, and one of several plays in 
which the earlier abstractions, translated into the terms of 
classical mythology, are represented as concerned with the doings 
of mortals whose story, none the less, constitutes the main in- 
terest. Whether this was suggested by the shades and furies 
of Seneca and his imitators, certain it is that by the time it 
reached Lyly it was transformed into a thing new and fanciful. 
Lyly gave to English drama a sense of unity and models of 
artistic form. He adopted Gascoigne's innovation, the writing 
of comedy in prose, and developed a medium of much ease, 
lightness and elegance. He employed dramatic disguise for the 
first time with effect and supplied his auditors with an idealised 
transcript of their own court manners and dialogue, giving to 
his work an immediate effectiveness by its allusiveness to affairs 
of the moment. Lyly took hand in the Marprelate controversy, 
the notorious pamphlet war between the extreme Puritans and 
the upholders of the bishops and of bishops' rights and preten- 
sions. Aside from a prose tract or two, ascribed to him, Lyly's 
work of this kind included several popular satirical plays.® 
These we may congratulate ourselves have perished ; they could 
have added nothirig to his fame. Lyly survived the queen who 
neglected him, dying in 1606, late enough to see his old " court 
plays " succeeded by wave upon wave of the new popular drama 
of his successors; but when he died, at just the age of Shake- 
speare, he could not but have known that he had borne his 
part in laying foundations on which were reared the successes 
of greater as of lesser men. 

Among writers of drama for the court in the early 
eighties, none could be named beside Lyly; and of those who 
imitated him one man only rivalled him in the thing that he 
did so well, and this only in one effort. George Peele, son of 
a clerk of Christ's Hospital, was born in 1558 and was there- 
fore four years the junior of Lyly. At Oxford young Peele 

^ On the whole topic, see Feuillerat, as above, pp. 211 ff. 


became interested in the drama through a kmsman, William 
Gager, the author of several Latin plays. Peele himself trans- 
lated one of the Iphigenias of Euripides, whether into Latin 
or English is not known. Attaining his master's degree in 1597, 
Peele turned his attention as a playwright from the college to 
the court and, with Lyly in the first bloom of his repute, at 
once set about to rival him. Peele's Arraignment of Paris has 
been dated as early as 1581 ; it was in print by 1584. Borrow- 
ing the idea from a poem of Gascoigne, Peele dramatized the 
story of Paris and GEnone and the discord of the goddesses 
wrought by the apple of Ate, but diverted the award from V^enus 
in the end to a votress of Diana, the gracious and royal nymph, 
" whose name Eliza is." But Peele's Arraignment is not merely 
compliment and a following of Lyly. Lyly's mastery was that 
of prose and his power is rhetorical. Peele is a poet and his 
graceful and fanciful dramatic poem depends for its success, 
not alone on its theme, but on its poetical quality and happy 
metrical facility. Of a second court play of Peele's, The Hunt- 
ing of Cupid, only fragments have come down to us; and soon 
we find Peele transferring his talents to the popular stage, 
whither we shall now follow him. 

It is impossible to fix a date for the earliest performance of 
secular plays in London. Acting in the yards of inns and other 
public places by strolling players must have been old when 
parliament adopted, in 1543, stringent measures against "com- 
mon players" for their intermeddling in matters religious; and 
almost as early, the phraseology of such acts habitually classified 
players, who were not specifically licensed, with vagabonds and 
masterless men. Adult professional companies of actors, made 
up of men with boys playing the female parts, date also very 
early, as does the Elizabethan practice of placing such com- 
panies under the protection of noble or royal patrons. Indeed 
Elizabeth's early statute of 1572, declaring all able-bodied, un- 
employed men (players among them), not under patronage of 
some nobleman to be vagabonds, was only regulating an old and 
established usage. This practice, though later little more than 
a legal fiction, was continued throughout the reign of Elizabeth 
largely because of the hostility of the London Council towards 
all actors. James on his accession placed the companies under 
royal patronage and ended the old system.' 

■^ On this subject, see V. C. Gildersleeve, Government Regulations of 
the Elizabethan Drama, 1908, pp. 29, 30, and elsewhere. 


The history of Elizabethan theatrical companies is full of 
difficulties. The evidence concerning them is now, thanks to 
the researches of Professor Wallace, abundant, though scholars 
will have to be more than mortal if they do not find themselves 
at times at variance as to the interpretation of some of it. 
Companies passed from patron to patron; coalitions, divisions 
and reorganisations were constantly taking place. For example, 
we hear of a group of players under the patronage of Lord 
Robert Dudley, later the great favourite, the Earl of Leicester, 
not infrequently between 1 560 and 1582. This company ob- 
tained the earliest royal patent ever granted to a company of 
players, in 1574. It acted at the Bull, an inn-yard in Bishops- 
gate Street, and later at the Theatre which James Burbage 
built, in 1576, in Shoreditch. It appears to have been broken 
up in 1582-83 by the withdrawal from it of Wilson, Tarlton 
and other prominent actors. Though some of its sometime 
members are found still under the patronage of the earl abroad 
in 1585, acting in Denmark and in Germany and, on their re- 
turn, visiting several provincial towns, among them Stratford.* 
In London, in consequence of this disrupture, a new company 
was formed called the Queen's servants who played variously at 
the Bull in Bishopsgate Street and the Bell in Gracious Street 
under the leadership of Robert Wilson and until about 159 1. 
Their rivals at that time were the Admiral's men playing at 
the Curtain, and the Chamberlain's men playing at the Theatre. 
Burbage was not connected, it now appears, at any time with 
the Queen's men, but succeeded in reorganising the disrupted 
company of the Earl of Leicester under the patronage of Lord 
Hunsdon who, as cousin of the queen, brought him a certain 
amount of court patronage. Without here going into par- 
ticulars, by 1585 Burbage had so improved his property in the 
Theatre, despite the innumerable law suits in which he was 
constantly involved, that he was able to make an agreement 
with his rival and neighbour, Laneman, manager of the neigh- 
bouring Curtain, by which the two companies pooled their in- 
terests and divided the profits of the two playhouses. In 1589, 

8 For the foreign visits of Elizabethan theatrical companies abroad, 
see E. Herz, Englische Schauspieler in Deutschland, 1903; for their 
visits to English provincial towns, see J. T. Murray, English Dramatic 
Companies, 1910. 


on the payment of a mortgage long held against the Theatre, 
Cuthbert Burbage became the legal owner of the property 
although his father, James Burbage, still remained the leader 
of the company. A year later, as a result of one of their in- 
cessant quarrels, the Alleyns, John and Edward, of the Cur- 
tain, severed their alliance with Burbage, and took themselves 
across the river where they joined hands with Henslowe who 
controlled the Rose and the playhouse at Newington Butts. Ed- 
ward Alleyn was now at the head of the Admiral's men and we 
hear of these theatres as variously occupied by them in the 
ensuing years, by the Earl of Pembroke's players, those of the 
Earl of Sussex and by a company known as Lord Strange's, in 
1593-94 called Lord Derby's. Some of the earlier plays of 
Shakespeare were acted by these companies controlled by 
Henslowe and Alleyn; it does not appear that there is any 
evidence of Shakespeare's association with Burbage before 1594- 
Lord Strange, Earl of Derby, died in April of that year and, 
in the reorganisation that followed, several of those who had 
constituted that company, William Kempe, Thomas Pope, John 
Heming, Augustine Philips and George Br>an, combined with 
Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare in the organisation 
of a new company under the patronage of Lord Hunsdon, 
Burbage's old patron, which, under his name, that of his office 
of Lord Chamberlain and as the King's players after 1603, be- 
came permanently Shakespeare's company. As servants to the 
Lord Chamberlain, Shakespeare and Burbage received the first 
payment for a performance at court in December of that year, 
1594. They were then acting at the Cross Keys in Gracious 
Street, but their principal houses were the Theatre and the 
Curtain where Romeo and Juliet was acted in 1598. In this 
year, difficulties arising concerning the renewal of the term of 
the lease of the ground in Shoreditch on which the Theatre 
stood, the Burbages pulled down the building in spite of the 
lessor's protest and re-erected it, with some improvements, on a 
piece of dumping ground, the only site available, near to the 
Rose on the Bankside in Southwark. This piece of ground was 
situated, as the deeds that Professor Wallace has unearthed, 
make undeniable, " just north of Maiden Lane, on the same 
side of the street as the Rose," and across the street from the 
site commemorated by the present tablet. A lease for twenty- 
one years was granted by the owner, Sir Nicholas Brend, a 


neighbour of Shakespeare's In the parish of St. Mary Alderman- 
bury, and before the year 1599, the famous Globe had begun 
its long and prosperous career.^ 

Of the character and constitution of these earlier companies 
we know comparatively little; and it is by no means certain 
that all were constituted alike. The company to which Shake- 
speare was attached was a sharing company. It held a lease 
for the Globe theatre and for the theatre in Blackfnars, which 
latter is sublet for a time. The number of sharers varied from 
five to seven, and while the original cost of the shares was no 
more than the rent of the ground and the obligations attending 
building and management, in time the shares became quite 
valuable. On the other hand, from Henslowe's Diary, an 
account book kept by Philip Henslowe concerning his trans- 
actions as part owner, financier and backer of several theatres, 
the organisation of these appears to have been much less demo- 

In considering the theatre of Marlowe and Shakespeare, we 
must keep in mind the conditions of Elizabethan London, a 
mediaeval town of less than 200,000 inhabitants, unlighted, un- 
dramed, crowded and threaded with narrow streets in which 
the upper stories of the timbered houses almost met in places. 
There was little of the town beyond the Tower, Bishopsgate 
and Temple Bar respectively, though houses extended beyond 
the several gates — Bishopsgate, leading to Shoreditch, Lud- 
gate, Cripplegate, and the rest — on the main roads leading out 
of the city. The Thames was the main thoroughfare from one 
part of the city to another as well as to Westminster. Its swift 
and unpolluted waters flowed through many a park and its 
banks were embellished with handsome houses of nobles and 
wealthy tradespeople. The river was crossed but once, by Lon- 
don Bridge, which united the city with Southwark on the 
Surrey side where was situated the Bankside. London was 
ruled by a Lord Mayor and a council of Aldermen, men 
prominent in the various trade-guilds of the city. With the 
welfare of the city at heart quite as much as because some were 
of Puritan leanings, the city council mistrusted the theatre from 
the first; and reasons for this mistrust were not far to seek. 
Assemblies of unpoliced crowds led to disorder and occasionally 

9 See especially the valuable paper of Professor Wallace on "The 
First London Theatre," University Studies, 191 3, xiiL 


to riot, and in time of plague — a very real danger in the old 
age — to the spread of pestilence. Moreover, the contents of 
many of the plays were ungodly, or at the least vain and trifling. 
Laws were therefore passed restricting theatrical performances 
and closing all playhouses when the plague became prevalent; 
and the erection of playhouses within the precincts of the city 
was forbidden. However, the jurisdiction of the mayor stopped 
at the several gates and at the middle point of London Bridge, 
and hence the evil was only transplanted to the suburbs. The 
earliest playhouses were built beyond the walls; for example, in 
Shoreditch, Bishopsgate without, where the Theatre, first struc- 
ture of its kind in England, dating 1576, and the Curtain, near 
it in Moorfields, 1577, were erected; or across the river along 
the Bankside where, in the nineties, there arose the Globe, the 
Rose, the Hope and the Swan. There were other theatres, 
however, besides these and the earlier inn-yards. Such were 
the playhouse at Newington Butts, back from the river in South- 
wark, and the Fortune, a large and fine theatre, built on a new 
plan, in 1600, by Edward Allcyn, the famous actor, son-in-law 
of Henslowe, in St. Giles, Cripplegate. 

The public playhouses of Elizabeth's day undoubtedly dif- 
fered in size and structure as do ours of to-day, but some gen- 
eral features may be accepted as characteristic of them all. 
They were ordinarily circular or octagonal in form, and built 
about an open space, a feature derived from their probable 
original, the inn yard. This yard was open to the sky and 
supplied standing places to the " groundlings " as they were 
called. It was surrounded on three sides by galleries, two or 
even three, and in the lowest of these were placed the most 
desirable seats. On the fourth side of the yard and opposite to 
the entrance door was situated the stage, a platform jutting far 
out into the middle of the yard so that the audience there might 
stand on three sides of it. There was a roof partially cover- 
ing the stage, supported by two pillars or " pilasters." Their 
precise position is somewhat doubtful, though it seems not un- 
likely that they were placed rather close together to produce 
the effect of a structure near the middle of the stage, leaving a 
space on either side and in front for free action on the stage 
around them. Certain it is that they were not placed far at the 
side to produce the effect of the modern stage, a framing for a 
picture. Whether a curtain was stretched between them is a 
moot question. If so, as seems not unreasonable, or if hung, as 


some think, underneath a balcony further back, or elsewhere it 
was drawn, not dropped, for the drop-curta.n came in only after 
the Restoration. Mention has been made of a balcony, this 
was an important feature of the Elizabethan stage, and the 
stage directions of old plays show a constant recourse to it. We 
have thus a stage of three divisions, the forward stage in front 
of the curtains, really a platform for declamation; secondly, a 
back or inner stage, before which a curtain "^^g^t^^ "e^^^^^^^ 
drawn; and third, a balcony or gallery -best conceived as run- 
ning across the whole diameter of the stage - so arranged as to 
be visible and practicable whether the curtain dividing the two 
parts of the stage was drawn or not. Abundance of evidence 
declares that there were ordinarily at least three stage doors on 
the Elizabethan stage; and it is likely that the two side doors 

were obliquelv placed. , , . . -, ^u„„ 

No assumption of former scholarship is more gratuitous than 
that which denies scenery to either the private or the public 
theatres of Elizabeth's time. Scenery in the modern sense was 
assuredly not in use, and several total changes of ;t were "o ed 
as a novelty as late as 1636; ^ but this is quite a different thing 
from a statement to the effect that scenery was unknown to the 
Elizabethan stage." Doubtless the humbler theatres were as 
bare and preposterous in their attempt at stage 1 lusion as some 
provinci/houses are to-day. But from -f^^^^^^^^f P^^P"- 
ties, and more especially from the stage dir^^^/^^y/^X^^^; 
poriry editions of our old drama, we are able to affirm fe ex 
istence of much to help the imagination to a realisation of place. 
In a list of Henslowe's properties occur such items as a rock, a 
age. a wooden canopy, a tree with golden apples and two 
teenies with a chime of bells; while " the cloth of the sun and 
r^oon" Belendon's stable, and "the city of Rome," sugges 
structures and painted canvases of some dimension. On the 
other hand, it se'ems not improbable that the Eh-bethans u^re 
often content with suggestion on the stage where we demand 
minute realism. A bed, a hanging and a ^^est in wh ch 
lachimo might hide, may have sufficed for Imogen s chamber . 
and Juliet's' tomb and the Castle of I-erness may have been 
alike simply suggested. But houses, two or three at a tune, 
trees practicable for climbing or uprooting, caves, groves, a hill, 
to say nothing of furniture, all must have been, upon occasion, 

10 The Royal Slave, by William Cartwrigbt. 

11 See Lee, Life of Shakespeare, p. 38- 


the common garnishings of the popular stage. It seems reason- 
able to regard Elizabethan as the logical outgrowth of mediaeval 
staging, precisely as its modification to conform to certain new 
ideas introduced from abroad (especially in the masques) finally 
led to modern conditions. Mediaeval staging, it will be re- 
membered, frequently assembled on one large platform the set- 
tings of several scenes. It has been held by some that the 
Elizabethans often did much the same, placing incongruous ob- 
jects — a throne in a wood, a hearse in a lady's chamber — 
upon the stage side by side. In some ruder plays the stage was 
actually set off into localities, so that action in the centre meant 
(as in one case) Colchester, to the right Malvern, to the left 
Hardwick. It was this species of " simultaneous scenery " that 
Sidney criticised in his " Asia of the one side, Africa of the 
other"; and Sidney was not alone among those of his time in 
such criticisms. Of late, too, the preposterousness of such ex- 
tremes has led the orderly critical mind of some investigators to 
theorise an explanation wherein they assume that heavy proper- 
ties were invariably placed on the inner stage. The outer stage, 
a mere platform before the curtain, might stand then by con- 
vention for anything, a street, an outer room, or indeed remain 
indeterminable. On the drawing of the curtain, however, a 
chair of state, suggestive of the presence chamber, the counter 
and goods marking a shop, an arbour denoting a garden and so 
forth, could be disclosed to help the illusion, and, the action of 
the scene concluded, the curtains were redrawn. From the 
more or less regular alternation of outer and inner scenes re- 
sulting from the supposed necessity of moving in and out these 
suggestive properties, this has been called " the alternation 
theory " ; and some have even endeavoured to show in Shake- 
speare a dramaturgy conformable to this state of things. So 
strict an alternation of scene as this theory demands can neither 
be proved for Shakespeare nor for the old drama at large; 
although neither the scene of indeterminable locality nor the 
suggestiveness of certain properties on occasion is for a moment 
to be denied.*'^ 

12 For further discussion and bibliography of this subject, see the 
present •writer's, " The Elizabethan Playhouse," Proceedings of the 
Numismatic Society of Philadelphia, 1910; and the interesting paper 
of A. H. Thorndike, " From Outdoors to Indoors on the Elizabethan 
Stage," Kittredge Anniversary Papers, 19 13, p- 273. 


Popular staging was affected by the devices and masklngs at 
court; to affirm anything else is to deny the most certam ot 
man's simian inheritances, imitation. Therefore if we know 
(as we do), that canvas was painted, spread on frames and 
shifted on and off the stage in grooved boards at court, we may 
feel sure that such things were not unheard of in London. 
While we must be careful to remember that chronology counts 
for much in an age of such rapid development we may cite none 
the less with confidence an allusion by one of the characters ot 
Tonson to "a piece of perspective," on the stage, in 1600, an 
allusion that would not have been made concerning a novelty, 
unheard of until that date. So, too, Dekker s off-hand remark 
as to one who " may stand at the helm and steer the p^sage ot 
scenes," throws light on the subject, though made in 1609 and 
possibly referable, like Jonson's allusion, to a private theatre. 
One thing is certain, the costuming of Elizabethan plays, even 
on the popular stage, was often rich and expensive, though little 
governed by that sense of fitness as to things past that distin- 
guishes our efforts after we have laboured with history and 
archaeology. To those who know the Elizabethan drama at 
large, the sea-coast of Bohemia, the pistol of Pericles and the 
striking clock of Brutus seem venial offences. Anachronism was 
a misdemeanour little recognised as such; and it is likely that 
Tonson was the only dramatist of the age who would have 
thought of criticising the acting of Macbeth, Tamburlaine and 
Casar all in the contemporary doublet and hose, and with con- 
temporary accessories of war and court attendance.^ Even Sid- 
ney and Whetstone who recognised, in their earlier time, thv*. 
incongruities of contemporary staging, were talking of Gorboduc 
and the like, with classical ideals in mind ; the age soon became 
accustomed to the aberrations of romantic art. 

Before we turn to the remaining members of the group of 
playwrights known par excellence as " the predecessors of Shake- 
speare " let us glance at the popular drama immediately con- 
temporary with the earlier efforts of Lyly. Two shadowy figures 
stand first in point of time; these are Richard Tarlton and 
Robert Wilson. Tarlton was the most celebrated clown of 
his day and furnished many anecdotes to the rude humours of 
the jest-books. He died in 1588 and has been supposed the 
"See Cynthicts Revels, Induction, Gifford-Cunningham, Jonson, ii, 
310, and Dekker's The Gulls' Hornbook, Grosart, Dekker, ii, 248. 


author of tu-o plays, The Famous Victories of Henry V, earliest 
and rudest of the chronicle plays, and The Seven Deadly Sins 
of London, evidently a great effort involving a series of virell 
know^n subjects. From the sketch or plot vi^hence information 
of this latter play is derived, it seems that the scenes in their 
general content were merely indicated and the actual dialogue 
supplied extemporaneously. It was this sort of thing, especially 
the extemporal clown, such as Tarlton, that Shakespeare later 
so reprobated in Hamlet.^* Wilson has been identified with 
the player who introduced Greene to a dramatic career, if we 
are to believe the vivid account of the matter in that romancer's 
Groatsworth of Wit. Wilson was an actor of note and left 
behind him no less than four plays, quasi-moral in character, 
printed in the eighties and earlier nineties, most important 
among them The Three Ladies of London. Another play, by 
some attributed to Wilson, is Fair Em, the Miller's Daughter 
of Manchester. Here an absurd pseudo-romance about William 
the Conqueror (and his quest of a wife in Sweden to correspond 
with a picture emblazoned on a shield) is tied up with the 
underplot which gives title to the play wherein, under guise of 
the affairs of Fair Em and her sisters, there seem figured forth, 
allegorical wise, particulars of the stage history of the day. 

It is a mistake to suppose the romantic element in literature 
the specific introduction of any age or time. The art that lays 
stress on novelty and seeks to produce its effects by means of 
strangeness belongs to all time, though it may not always rule ; 
the variety of its manifestations is infinite, Calisto and Meliboea, 
Spanish in origin, Promos and Cassandra, Italian, each was 
possessed of this quality and so was Fair Em, the major plot 
of which belongs to a type of story that strikes its roots far 
back into the fiction of the middle ages. The Accounts of 
the Revels contain several titles that suggest material of this 
kind; The Irish Knight, Herpetulus, The Blue Knight. The 
Solitary Knight, The Knight in the Burning Rock. Other 
subjects, such as Paris and Vienna, are well known in their 
prose form, or, like Palaemon and Arcyte of Edwards, are 
stories already treated by Chaucer, To dramas of this type we 
may give the title heroical romances in dramatic form, as the 
term " heroic play " has long since been applied to a more 
specific and a far later variety of a not dissimilar species. The 

14 HI. ii. 42. 


step from the moraHty to the heroic play, for example, is rep- 
resented in The Marriage of Wit and Science, 1569.. Here 
Wit has been metamorphosed into a knightly lover, passionately 
enamoured of his lady. Science. Common Conditions oi much 
the same date, is a " romance" of the class run wild m which 
a Duke of Phrygia, an Arabian knight and a French lady, ail 
figure turbulently in love and plotting through three continents, 
besides " the Isle of Marofus." Of the same type are Sir 
Clyomon and Sir Clamydes, variously placed between 1570 and 
IS84 and ascribed perhaps hastily to the authorship of Feeie, 
and Greene's Orlando Furioso, different though its literary 
origin, yet little less absurd in its romantic extravagance of per- 
sonage and plot. When we add that it was out of such pro- 
ductions that the conqueror play of Tamburlaine typt was 
evolved, we establish still another line of growth from early 
times into the period of regular drama. 

We left George Peele, an imitator of Lyly at court, as tie 
had been an imitator of Gager at Oxford. It seems likely that 
finding little prospect of success such as Lyly s at court, fttie 
turned, about 1586, to the popular stage to write plays alone 
and with others for a living. Peele was one of those men of 
Bohemian disposition to whom careless revelry and unregulated 
conduct are matters of second nature. He died early, m i597, 
it is said worn out by his excesses. The range of his author- 
ship must be surmised rather than determined and the condi- 
tions of the moment account for this state of things with Peele 
as with others. It was the prevalent custom to regard a play, 
once accepted, absolutely the property of the company; and 
publication, in earlier times (other things bemg equal), usually 
meant that the company had done with it. The professional 
actor was held in little esteem; it was worse with the protes- 
sional playwright, for he was not even recognised as existent 
Mention of the poet, that mere contriver of the devices, would 
have struck an early Elizabethan, we may believe as quite pre- 
posterous; as preposterous, indeed, as our printed menjio" ot 
the wig-maker and the stage upholsterer. Once more the habit 
of collaboration in the writing of plays was general and the 
outgrowth of the immediate and constant demand for new 
plays. When a play was thus written, nobody claimed it and 
the Incessant revision of old plays, revised, as often as not, by 
another hand than that of the original author, further com- 
plicated the question. Peele was a playwright for seventeen or 


eighteen years and he seems not to have been " a slow writer." 
Therefore when we find less than half a dozen plays assigned 
to his pen in his collected works, and some of these even doubt- 
fully, we wonder what has become of the rest of his work. 
Besides The Arraignment of Paris and Sir Clyomon, which is 
probably Preston's, four other dramas are usually printed as 
Peek's: these are The Old Wives' Tale, a pleasing extrava- 
ganza, apparently a burlesque of the heroical romances just 
described, David and Bethsabe, a bible story revived and treated 
chronicle-wise, Edward I, a chronicle play far from conspicu- 
ously able, and The Battle of Alcazar, a conqueror drama of 
the class of Marlowe's Tamburlaine. All these plays have been 
clustered, in point of date of writing, about the year 1590; and, 
while they are diverse enough in subject matter, all exhibit the 
metrical facility, lyrical readiness, careless, easy conglomeration 
of plot, together with certain mannerisms of diction and style 
recognised as Peek's. In addition to this. Peek has long been 
thought to be one of the several poets that appear to have 
worked together on our earlier English chronicle plays; those 
on Henry VI (in their later revised state included in editions 
of Shakespeare), The Troublesome Reign of King John, the 
older Richard III. And now a share in Jack Straw, Marlowe's 
Edward II and the older King Leir is added to his list, to- 
gether with two more or less romantic comedies, fVily Be- 
guiled and The Wisdom of Doctor Doddypoll, the last an imi- 
tation, in part at least, of A Midsummer-Night's Dream, and 
an earlier draft of the satirical medley, Histriomastix. 

Recent criticism, too, has been incidentally busy with Peek; 
and three plays of importance in the history of tragedy are in- 
volved, Alphonsus of Germany, Locrine, and Titus Andronicus. 
The first is a revenge play, remarkable for the idiomatic Ger- 
man which it contains; it was thus attributed long ago by 
Anthony a Wood, and the notion is now revived despite long 
association with the name of Chapman. If Locrine is Peek's, 
it must have been early work, as it shows close touch with 
Seneca at court, even if relieved by comic scenes in a very con- 
trasted vernacular manner. Most important is the serious 
ascription of Titus Andronicus, so long and disturbingly ac- 
cepted as Shakespeare's, to the part authorship of Peele.^' While 
it is impossible in the space here at command to enter into the 
intricacies and nice weighing of Mr. Robertson's arguments, it 
[ 1' J. M. Robertson, Did Shakespeare Write Titus Andronicus, 1905. 


must be frankly confessed that he makes out a very strong 
case. Titus was first published in the recently discovered quarto 
of 1594 and thereafter several times, never as Shakespeare s 
until its' inclusion in the folio. It is mentioned contempo- 
raneously as Shakespeare's only by Meres, and this is explain- 
able Jonson refers to it contemptuously and in connection 
with work older than anv of Shakespeare's could possibly have 
been Moreover, Titus was originally in the possession of a 
theatrical companv, the Sussex men, with which Shakespeare 
was never associated, however it may have been subsequently 
claimed by reason of revision. The subject of T^tus^v^so\d 
to the stage and had been repeatedly recast. If the I itus 
Andronicus that we have is the work of Shakespeare, it must 
be dated early to account for its difFerence from his later works 
and its extraordinary crudity ; but plot, diction, and metre point 
to a date not much before that of publication; and at that date 
Shakespeare was writing in no such manner. On the other 
hand, internal evidence, elicited by a comparison of the plotting, 
diction, versification and vocabulary of Titus, discloses many ot 
the qualities and mannerisms of Peele in particular and ot 
Greene in lesser degree. Wherefore the conclusion that be- 
t^veen 1 590 and 1592, Greene revised and expanded an older 
play in which Peele had already a large share ; with the 
alternative possibility that Peele revised an old play by Greene 
and Kyd." Before the reader of Mr. Robertson's acute brochure 
pooh-poohs the idea of depriving Shakespeare of the authorship 
of this tragedy, let him carefully reread Titus Andronicus and 
ask himself if it were not a genuine service to the greatest name 
in English literature, could we relieve Shakespeare of the onus 
and the odium involved in the callousness to human suffering 
and the accumulation of gruesome and nauseating details that 
distinguish this tasteless example of the horrible overdone. As 
to Peele dramatically, it is obvious that he tried to do every- 
thing, court drama, biblical play, masque, Senecan tragedy, 
chronicle play, comedy, burlesque, and what not. Possibly after 
The Arraignment of Paris, Peele's most characteristic contribu- 
tion to the drama is to be found in the fantastic irony of_ 1 he 
Old Wives' Tale in which he daintily turns the absurdities of 
the old historical plays and romances to ridicule in a series of 
burlesque scenes capitally conceived and executed. Does it seem 
altogether preposterous, considering this and the extravagant 
bombast and overdone classical allusions of Locrine, to beheve 


that Peele (if Titus Andronicus be his) was doing much the 
same for Senecan tragedy in this case? 

And now the newly awakened popular stage was more and 
more attracting men of education. Thomas Lodge was the 
son of a Lord Mayor of London and received his education at 
Oxford and Lincoln's Inn. Almost before he left college Lodge 
threw himself with zeal into criticism and general pamphleteer- 
ing, although he published no poetry until 1 589. Lodge's voy- 
ages by sea and adventures concern us even less than his rather 
voluminous prose, translations and poetical plunderings espe- 
cially of the French lyrists. In general he gave interest for the 
things that he used, for Lodge had the stuff of poetry in him. 
His early life in London seems to have been of much the 
Bohemian nature of Pecle's and Greene's; but unlike these, his 
associates, he recovered himself to become, in the reign of James, 
a reputable physician and to outlive almost all his literary con- 
temporaries. Lodge's contact with the drama is difficult to 
trace ; for he was clearly ashamed of it — perhaps not without 
reason. We know that he had a share with Greene in the 
absurd hodge-podge of biblical story, modern farce and moral 
application, called A Looking Glass for London and England, 
acted in 1589, and that his name occurs as the sole author of 
The Wounds of Civil War, a classical chronicle history of no 
unusual merit, concerning Marius and Sulla, published in 1594. 
The rest is surmise. If Lodge's renunciation of the stage is to 
be taken seriously, he may none the less have had a hand in the 
older King John and in King Leir, in A Larum for London, a 
dramatization of the all but contemporary siege of Antwerp, 
and in the murder play, A Warning for Fair Women, all of 
which has been alleged. Two comedies have also been assigned 
to Lodge, the enormously popular, if trivial, Mucedorus, first 
printed in 1598, and the older Taming of a Shrew, which we 
know that Shakespeare revised to make it The Taming of the 
Shrew. If it be possible to reconstruct a dramatic Lodge out 
of these scanty traces, we can find him taking the part of a 
collaborator in earlier chronicle plays, dramatizing items of con- 
temporary interest, mere hack work, and showing his best talent 
in lighter romantic comedy such as naive Mucedorus and the 
comedy scenes of King Leir. At best Thomas Lodge is but a 
shadowy figure among " the predecessors of Shakespeare." 

We proceed on firmer ground with Robert Greene, notorious 
for his grudging slur at Shakespeare, the first unmistakable allu- 


sion to the great poet's activity as a dramatist. Greene was the 

son of a minister and born at Nor^vich, in 1558. He studied 
both at Oxford and Cambridge, a matter that he was never 
wear>- of boasting. Travel abroad and an early acquaintance 
with the low life of London little bettered his disposition to 
self-indulgence. On the contrary- he fell away from his friends, 
patrons and family, and at last deserted his wife to live disso- 
lutely among his inferiors. Greene was famous in his day for 
his pamphlets and stories, many of them more or less auto- 
biographical. His Groatsxiorth of Jflt Purchased uith a Mil- 
lion of Repentance, 1592, is best known for the allusion to 
Shakespeare; in it Greene tells, too, a circumstantial stor>- of 
his own induction into the craft of pla>-maker by a portentous 
personage who has been identified with Robert Wilson, men- 
tioned above. Greene's career was short at best. He could 
have written little before 1580; and was dead of his own ex- 
cesses in September, 1592. Though constantly deploring his 
evil ways and, in moments of misfortune, sincerely repentant, 
little can be said in extenuation of his life which he threw away 
in his folly to the unhappiness of those who loved him and to 
the impoverishment of his genius, 

Greene in his work, like Peele, was imitative yet little bound 
by precept or example. The list of his play-s includes The 
Looking Glass for London, as we have seen, showing the in- 
fluence of Wilson; Orlando Furioso, 1592. an heroical drama, 
a slight advance on the absurdities of Common Conditions: 
Alphonsus of Aragon, an unsuccessful eftort to out-bombast the 
Tamburlaine of Marlowe; Friar Bacon, 1 590, a charming 
comedv of " white magic," matched against the " black magic " 
of Faustus; and The Scottish History of King James IV, 1 591. 
an eftort to play upon the popularit>- of chronicle histor\- in a 
comedy of romaiitic interest. Haste, carelessness and a want of 
constructive forethought, all are characteristic more or less of 
these acknowledged works of Greene; and yet they are not 
without their merits. Again and again we meet in them with 
passages of poetic qualitv*, with personages, especially in comedy, 
that live and breathe naturally, with delicacy and beaut\- of 
sentiment, and a power to give realitv' to picturesque or romantic 
situations. Friar Bacon and King James afford us, too, in 
Margaret of Fressingfield, Lady Ida, and the Queen, three of 
the most genuine and charming women in the drama preceding 
Shakespeare ; while above all we have in Greene a fine fidelity 


to English scene and English life. In the last nanied play we 
find, too, a constructive excellence, an ability to seize the dra- 
matic moment and use it that suggest unfulfilled possibilities 
in the genius of Greene, could his life have been less disordered. 
Perhaps it was the recognition of this and the contrasted image 
of his successful younger rival, Shakespeare, that so embittered 
Greene. The dying man must have felt, with that instinct 
that is the poet's, that in Shakespeare's benignin.' and silent, 
artistic thrift lay the inevitability of an achievement that was 
never to be his own. 

Conjecture has been no less busy increasing the limits of the 
authorship of Greene than in the other like cases. There seems 
little reason to doubt that his hand was engaged in some of the 
earlier chronicle plays, especially in the plays on Henr>- V"I with 
the lifting of a line from one of which he specifically charges 
Shakespeare. SeUmus, a tragedy on Turkish history' in the 
vein of Tamburla'me, was confidently ascribed to Greene, and 
edited as his by the late Dr. Grosart. Robertson belie\'es 
Greene a collaborator with Peele in Titus and Locrine, with 
Kyd in The Spanish Tragedy and Soliman and Perseda, find- 
ing " Greenish " traces too in Sir Clyomon, Alphonsus of Ger- 
many and the older Leir. And on the score of similarities in 
action, vocabulary, and figure, he would ascribe all of Edivard 
III, the finest parts of which are often assigned Shakespeare, to 
Greene's authorship as well. Whate\'er the merits of these in- 
vestigations — and there can be no question of their scholarly 
seriousness — one other play, George-a-Greene or the Pinner of 
IVakefield, which is now more doubted than believed to be 
Greene's, the present writer would like to be able to preserve 
for him, so characteristic it seems of the man. In it is told the 
ston- of the simple-hearted service and prowess of the excellent 
young yeoman whose name and office of under-sherift give title 
to the comedy ; while in the denouement, George refuses knight- 
hood at the hands of his sovereign, preferring to be first in his 
father's class rather than abjure it. Here was an appeal of a 
popular tone, eminently at variance with that of the court drama 
of which we have heard. Nor is this the only case among the 
plays of these elders of Shakespeare in which we find the drama 
reaching out for the approval of him whom we should now call 
" the man in the street." It is essential that we should recog- 
nise that however aristocratic may have been many of its ten- 
dencies and ideals, the London drama of the hej'day of Eliza- 


beth truly deserves the designation popular. Shakespeare wrote 
emphatically for the many, not, as did Jonson at times, for " the 
judicious few " ; and, however the select taste of the court may 
have determined the drama of Lyly, writing for the choir boys 
of Blackfriars, the plays of Greene, Peele, Kyd and Marlowe, 
delivered at the Theatre, the Curtain, the Globe and the Rose, 
constituted a great, popular, national utterance. 

In Thomas Kyd we meet with a man of somewhat different 
type from the gentlemen and schoolmaster playwrights, from 
illiterate actors turned makers of plays, or the " university 
wits " as Professor Saintsbury somewhat unhappily dubbed 
Peele, Greene, Lodge, and Marlowe, a sobriquet that appears 
to stick. Kyd was born in London in 1558, the son of a 
scrivener. He attended the Merchant Tailors' school while 
Richard Mulcaster was master, and may have caught under that 
encourager of the drama the taste that made him a playwright. 
Investigation has not shown that Kyd was ever of either uni- 
versity; but he knew his classics well, if somewhat carelessly, 
and was not unacquainted with the three important modern 
Latin tongues. The career of Kyd as a dramatist probably 
lay between 1585 and 1590 at the latest, and his authorship 
and collaboration is even less certain than that of other mem- 
bers of his group. It must have been close to the earlier date 
just mentioned that Kyd made his leap to immediate fame with 
The Spanish Tragedy. This play shared for years with Tam- 
burlaine the greatest popularity of any tragedy outside of 
Shakespeare; and became the parent of a considerable group of 
successors, known as the tragedies of revenge. In The Spanish 
Tragedy is set forth the pathetic situation of a father who has 
lost his son by murder at the hands of assassins unknown. In 
his endeavours to learn the authors of the crime, Hieronimo, the 
father, totters on the verge of madness and in the end, finding 
his prince the instigator and redress by ordinary form and 
process of law therefore impossible, he attains his revenge by 
means of a play arranged within a play. The Spanish Tragedy 
came at a time when Gorboduc and Tancred and Gismunda 
represented the height of English tragic achievement. It would 
be too much to expect any tragedy at such a moment to have 
been unaffected by the prevalent Senecan ideals. And Kyd's 
master work is Seneca in bone and sinew, if clothed with 
Renaissance romantic flesh. The Spanish Tragedy is well 
planned and constructed, even in view of what was to come; 


its figures are vital and the dramatic moments are seized with 
appreciation and effectively handled. Even the verse and style, 
if somewhat stiff and inflated, mark a long stride forward. In 
short, the popularity of this famous tragedy was thoroughly 
well deserved. 

If we recur to the story of The Spanish Tragedy, for which, 
by the way, the ingenuity of scholarship has as yet failed to 
find a source, we are struck at once by its likeness to the well 
known story of Hamlet. In Hamlet, to be sure, it is the father 
that has proved the victim and the son is left to avenge him; 
but the situation, a secret crime, the perpetrator above the law, 
the burden on the avenger suggesting insanity, the discovery (in 
Kyd's play the revenge) arranged by a play within a play: here 
are striking parallels. As far back as the year 1589 there are 
allusions to a tragedy by name Hamlet; the play of Shakespeare 
that we know belongs at earliest to the very last years of Eliza- 
beth's reign. Moreover, a German version of the drama of 
early date differs materially in certain particulars, and the two 
quartos of Shakespeare's Hamlet, with certain differences in the 
folio, disclose the likelihood of a revision from an older play. We 
are not left then wholly to a certain famous passage by Nash in 
his prefatory epistle to Greene's Menaphon, 1589, in which the 
title Hamlet is coupled darkly with " Kidde in iT.sop," for the 
inference that Kyd was the author of this earlier version of the 
master tragedy of Shakespeare. This revision, save for traces 
in the German version and in the Shakespeare texts (if indeed 
there be such traces?), is now totally lost. But it is of interest 
to note, looking forward for a moment, that about the time that 
Shakespeare was submitting the old Hamlet of Kyd to a thor- 
ough rewriting for the Chamberlain's men, Ben Jonson was en- 
gaged by Henslowe to add scenes to The Spanish Tragedy and 
further to develop the character of Marshal Hieronimo for the 
Admiral's men, their rivals. 

Two other plays that have been assigned to Kyd are less 
memorable. They are the First Part of leronimo, printed in 
1605 and purporting to be a fore-piece to The Spanish Tragedy, 
and Soliman and Perseda. leronimo is probably the work of 
an imitator, anxious to profit by the popularity of Kyd. Soli- 
man and Perseda is more like The Spanish Tragedy in conduct 
and style, though distinctly inferior. It, too, utilises the sub- 
ject of the more popular Tragedy, dramatizing at length the 
play in the fifth act by the means of which Hieronimo reaches 


his revenge. Although the evidence on the subject is slender 
enough, it seems reasonable to regard Soliman and Perseda as 
the work of Kyd, written soon after The Spanish Tragedy and 
in consequence of the success of that greater effort. Among 
the several other plays with which the name of Kyd has been 
more or less ingeniously associated, may be named Titus An- 
dronicus (if Shakespeare is to gain by the loss of it) ; The 
Taming of a Shrew (if Kyd's, his only essay in the realm of 
comedy) ; and Arden of Feversham. Kyd is likewise the cer- 
tain author of an able translation, in 1594, of the Cornelie of 
Robert Gamier, the contemporary French Senecan. This is 
dedicated to Lady Sussex, an aunt of Lady Pembroke, who 
presided over a literary circle especially interested in French 
tragedy. A more important association of Kyd's was that with 
Marlowe. In 1593, Kyd was arrested on the charge of sedi- 
tion, being supposedly implicated in certain libels against 
foreigners, found affixed to the wall of the Dutch churchyard. 
The unfortunate dramatist was tortured without eliciting a con- 
fession; but, as a disputation of " atheistical " contents was found 
among his papers, he was remanded for further examination. 
The documents in this case, especially the defence of Kyd, in- 
form us that, at one time, Kyd and Marlowe occupied the same 
chamber where, according to the affirmation of the former, their 
papers became mixed on the same table. We do not know the 
outcome of the matter. It appears to have been confused with 
the accusations against Marlowe. Nor does Kyd's own con- 
duct, judged by his words, seem either ingenuous or fair to his 
associate. Doubtless through this affair, Kyd lost any chance 
that he may have had for advancement by his patrons. He was 
dead in December 1594, when his parents significantly re- 
nounced their right to administer what must have been the ex- 
ceedingly slender estate of their deceased son.^® 

Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in March 
1564; and was thus a month older than Shakespeare. Mar- 
lowe's father was a shoemaker, his mother a clergyman's daugh- 
ter. He was about as well born as Shakespeare ; but he had the 
good fortune, living in a larger community, to attract attention 
by his precocity (we may infer) while a student at the King's 
School, Canterbury, and he was accordingly sent up to Cam- 

18 On the whole topic see F. S. Boas, The Works of Thomas Kyd, 
1 901. This renunciation was discovered by Schick. 


bridge. There he remained until 1587, taking his bachelor's 
and master's degrees in course and perhaps falling into disfavour 
towards the end. There has been much " mystification," to call 
it no worse, as to the life of Marlowe; criticism now turns to 
the agnostic attitude. Francis Kett, Fellow of Corpus Christi, 
was convicted of holding " unorthodox views as to the Trinity," 
and later was burned at the stake for them. Kett left Cam- 
bridge in 1580, the year of Marlowe's arrival. Whether these 
two men met or not is a matter of little importance. That an 
impressionable youth with an innate tendency to free thinking, 
should have remained uninterested and unaffected by influences 
that were notorious at his university when he entered it, is 
simply unthinkable, the more especially that we now know that 
Marlowe's actual " deflections from orthodoxy " appear to have 
been much those of Kett. The tale that Marlowe was an actor 
of riotous life in London " who brake his leg in one lewd 
scene " has now been definitely traced to the fabrication of that 
able scholar and antiquary gone wrong, John Payne Collier. As 
a matter of fact we know much less about Marlowe than we 
know about Shakespeare; and about Marlowe's life, his char- 
acter and his authorship hover the same clouds of doubt which 
have given rise to guess-work and conjecture in lesser mass only 
because the world is naturally more interested in the greater 
man. Marlowe's authorship as a dramatist begins with Tam- 
burlaine, a stupendous effort to treat in two whole dramas the 
subjugating career of Timur Kahn, the conqueror of Asia. 
Here, the young poet's choice of subject was as daring as his 
treatment was novel and untrammelled by previous examples. 
Moreover, he was entirely conscious of what it was that he was 
doing and as confident of success as his hero. Tamburlaine must 
have been on the stage by 1586 or 1587; It is a moot question 
whether it preceded or followed The Spanish Tragedy. Even 
if Marlowe wrote later, he could have owed little to the work 
of Kyd. On the other hand, there is none of the boisterous and 
dynamic romanticism that characterises Tamburlaine in the 
modified Senecanism of The Spanish Tragedy. Kyd's play is 
above all things a drama ; indeed its merits lie along the line of 
action and in the forcible stage realism of an efFective story; 
Tamburlaine, on the contrary, is essentially an epic in which 
the sheer force of poetry has triumphed over difficulties to 
produce, with all its faults, a really surprising result. It is im- 
possible to make clear except by actual example how far the 


poetry of Marlowe, the quality of his words, the pomp and 
music of his lines, tower above the rhetorical niceties of Lyly, 
the effective eloquence of Kyd, or the graceful prettiness of 
Peele. Marlowe's Tamburlaine caught the age no less by its 
poetry than The Spanish Tragedy by its tragic quality and the 
problem of the character of Hieronimo; and Marlowe held his 
audience as long, beginning the series of conqueror plays — 
Greene's Alphonsus of Aragon, Selimus, Peek's Battle of Al- 
cazar, and his lost Turkish Mahomet among them — as Kyd's 
Tragedy inaugurated the tardier tragedy of revenge. 

The play of Marlowe next in chronological order is Doctor 
Faustus, on the stage by the year of the Armada. It has come 
down to us unhappily in a fragmentary and imperfect text. 
Faustus tells the world-story of the man who, seeking for all 
knowledge, pledged his soul to the devil, only to find the miser)' 
of a hopeless repentance in this world and damnation in the 
world to come. The motive, like much of the conduct of this 
tragedy, is that of the old moralities, witness the alternate 
promptings of the good and the bad angel and the dance of the 
seven deadly sins. More important is the typical character of 
Faustus who is any man and every man. But Faustus is, none 
the less, an individual in whose pathetic plight we are inter- 
ested for himself, and the appeal of the work is primarily ar- 
tistic. Doctor Faustus is a better play on the stage than the 
careless reader might suppose it; and it is worthy of note that 
what the old story has gained in other hands in variety of in- 
cident, by the infusion of the love story of Margaret for ex- 
ample, it has lost in the singleness of purpose with which 
Marlowe concentrates attention on his unhappy protagonist. 
Even the wide allegorical significance, the masterly obliteration 
of time and space of the second part of Goethe's Faust with the 
hero's redemption, scarcely compensate for this loss. The tragic 
and untimely death, too, of Marlowe, the daring character of 
his genius and the stories of his doubts of God have conspired 
to make this play one of the most interesting in our literature. 
Beside all this, it is unimportant what editions or translations 
of the Faustbuch Marlowe utilised in his work. His was the 
poetry that fired the genius of Goethe, who sophisticated with 
modern brilliant philosophical speculation a theme which was 
the product of an age of sterner and, dare we say, of sounder 
theology than that of his own. 

Our interest in The Jew of Malta, 1589-90. is of a different 


kind and concerns Shakespeare's relations to it. In the Jew, 
as in the figures of Tamburlaine and Faustus, we have a crea- 
ture of heroic and overweening passion ; but, in the place of the 
passion for conquest or the passion for all-knowledge, we have 
substituted a gigantic malevolence that degenerates from its 
very excess into inhuman caricature. The Jew in Elizabethan, 
as in other ages, is a subject more interesting to those of the 
Hebrew race than to others. Shakespeare owed something in 
his Shylock to Marlowe's Barabas who is more nearly the 
conventional Jew of scandalous mediaeval tradition. It is only 
fair to Marlowe, as to Shakespeare in this connection, to re- 
member that both simply recorded for the stage the prejudices 
of an age not much more bound by such prejudices than the 
world of to-day, if somewhat more brutal in its avowal of them. 
Barabas is a monster, but the play in which he perpetrates his 
impossible crimes is, as a drama, decidedly an advance on its 
predecessors, even if, as must be acknowledged, less sustained 
by the buoyancy of Marlowe's poetry. The dramatic master- 
piece of Marlowe, however, is his one chronicle play, Edward 
II. Recurrence has been made in these pages more than once 
to this species of drama, and early suggestions of it have been 
described in the figure of Bale's King Johan, in the subject- 
matter of Gorboduc and elsewhere. A chronicle play is a 
drama based as to source on the chronicle historj' of Great 
Britain, a history transformed into a play, and it is conceivable 
that it may exist in many varieties. Edward II, which appears 
to have been first acted in 1592, is by no means an early speci- 
men of its class. In the probable collaboration with Peele, 
Greene and Lodge, we have met with such productions as Jack 
Straw, The Troublesome Reign of King John, The Conten- 
tions of the Two Noble Houses of Lancaster and York and 
The Chronicle History of Richard Duke of Gloucester. All 
are chronicle plays, and so, too, in a sense, are the plays on 
mythical British history, Locrine, The Misfortunes of Arthur 
and King Leir. The epic character, which imbues most of 
these plays, was not preserved by Marlowe in his Edward II, 
and it may be suspected that he wrote his play more for the 
tragic pathos which the story of the unkingly and discrowned 
sovereign exhales than for any other reason. It is worth not- 
ing, however, that in this tragedy Marlowe raised the whole 
species of the chronicle play to a higher artistic level and 
reached the crown of his own dramatic art. The Tragedy of 


Queen Dido, published as his in collaboration with Nash, in 
1594, is below his independent work; and The Massacre at 
Paris, acted 1592-93, save for the character of the Duke of 
Guise, is distinctly inferior. Historically, however, this work is 
of interest, as apparently the earliest effort to apply the method 
of the chronicle play to the history of a contemporary foreign 
country; and it led to important things after. Marlowe has 
been thought a collaborator with the others of this group in 
several plays, Shakespearean and other: Henry VI, Titus 
once more and even Richard III among them.^^ It seems, how- 
ever, less consistent with his independent and insolent spirit 
thus to have submitted his genius to harness, and the degree of 
such servitude, if it were ever his, is likely to continue in- 

There remains one matter as to Marlowe. His age, espe- 
cially after his indubitably tragic death, acclaimed him, in the 
loose language of the time, " an atheist." Indeed Greene had 
touched him on this point in his Groatsworth of Wit, and, 
when Marlowe was killed, there was out against him a series 
of accusations, brought by a professional informer, named 
Baines, in which specific charges of this tenor were maliciously 
set forth. So far as we can make them out, the bases for 
Marlowe's disrepute in these matters are several. First, there 
was the association with Kett or at least with his ideas at 
Cambridge — many a man has been made or unmade by the 
reputation thrust upon him at college. Secondly, Marlowe was 
the personal friend of Sir Walter Raleigh and a choice circle 
of kindred spirits, poets and men of science who discussed many 
things with a greater freedom than the cautious orthodoxy of 
the age was likely to approve. The misfortunes and unpopu- 
larity of Raleigh in the next reign caused this little set of in- 
quirers to be spoken of as a " school of atheists " ; but it was the 
zeal of the Jesuit, Father Parsons, that so dubbed them. Again, 
Marlowe was evidently a man of free and unguarded speech, 
imprudent and incapable of concealment. He may^ even have 
enjoyed the intentional mystification of such an unimaginative 
fool as the informer Baines, whose " Note Containing the opin- 
ion of one Christopher Marley concerning his damnable judg- 
ment of religion," be it remembered, is wholly ex parte. More 

i'^ See C. F. Tucker Brooke, The Authorship of the Second and 
Third Parts of King Henry VI, New Haven, 1912. 


serious than any of these things is an extant letter in which 
Thomas Kyd under indictment of a similar charge, declares 
that Marlowe was " irreligious," adding that he was also " in- 
temperate and cruel of heart." But Kyd was in difficulty him- 
self and it was the cue of a cowardly spirit to shift as much of 
his misdemeanour as possible on the man who had shared his 
room and his writing table. Fortunately we are not left in 
this matter wholly to conjecture. A second document, turned 
up in the scholarly researches of Mr. Boas not long since and 
flamboyantly endorsed, " vile heretical conceits denying the deity 
of Jesus Christ our Saviour," turns out on examination to be 
" a methodical defence, based on scriptural texts of theistical 
or Unitarian doctrines," denying neither God nor the authority 
of the scriptures." Lastly, let him who believes that Mar- 
lowe ever said in his heart with the fool, " there is no God," 
read the poignant scenes of Doctor Faustus. We do not really 
know the circumstances of Marlowe's death. He was buried 
June first, 1593, in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford, 
near Greenwich, and In September of that year so little had 
been the noise of his death that Gabriel Harvey, a notorious 
ghoul, reported that he had died of the plague. The disgrace- 
ful particulars which tradition has attached to the poet's death, 
— the quarrel, " the bawdy house," the serving man and the 
rest — begin four years later when the Puritan author of The 
Theatre of God's Judgment employed the fate of this play- 
maker and " atheist " as one of his warning examples of the 
vengeance of God. In 1598 the parallels of Meres* Wits' 
Treasury, a " comparative discourse " throughout of classical 
and English authors, suggested that Marlowe was stabbed to 
death by " a rival of his in his lewd love," for such was the 
" parallel " death of the Greek poet, Lycophoron. And so the 
matter grew until the poet became the aggressor and the 
" atheist " was cut down in the very act of murder and 
" blaspheming God." It seems worth while that we should 
now recognise that the disgraceful particulars of the death 
of Marlowe are wholly the invention of pious, ingenious 

18 On these documents, see Boas, Works of Kyd as above and J. H. 
Ingram, Christopher Marloiue and his Associates, 1904. Mr. Ingram 
attacks the validity of these documents. For a summary of the matter 
more at large than is possible here, see the present author's Elizabethan 
Drama, i, 234 flp. 


and untruthful good men who used this glaring example of the 
fate that befalls the ungodly to point a moral and adorn a 

The youngest of " the predecessors of Shakespeare " is Thomas 
Nash, and he was truly " a university wit," although his touch 
with the history of the drama is really exceedingly slight. 
Nash was born in 1567 and entered St. John's College before 
Marlowe left Cambridge, forming an association with that 
poet, further proved by the joint authorship, at an uncertain 
date, of The Tragedy of Dido. However, the talents of Nash 
were of a different type, as the notable series of his satirical 
prose pamphlets, his controversies, the Marprelate ones and 
those with Harvey, go to show. While at college, Nash was 
in difficulties for a satirical Latin comedy, and his Isle of Gulls, 
in English and equally sharp of tongue we may believe, kept 
him a prisoner in the Fleet for months and was so successfully 
suppressed that we have not a shred of it. As a matter of 
fact but one dramatic composition remains from the pen of 
JsJash — the masque-like comedy Summer s Last Will and Testa- 
ment, 1597, acted before the queen and a late following of 
Lyly's mythological and allegorical court drama of much elab- 
oration and exceedingly little plot. 

If we turn back to the group of writers just discussed re- 
viewing them as a whole, it is clear that while they formed in 
no sense a coterie, they must have been more or less intimately 
acquainted in a small city such as Elizabeth's London. We 
may assume that Lyly dwelt more continuously in the precincts 
of the court ; though Nash, Bohemian of the Bohemians, fought 
by his side in the Marprelate controversy. Nash, as we have 
seen, was associated with Marlowe and was Greene's champion 
against the attacks of Harvey. Peele, Greene, and Lodge vari- 
ously collaborated. Kyd, who was not a university man, ap- 
pears to have stood apart from the group; and yet he was 
room-mate of Marlowe. It is a mistake to suppose most of 
these men actors. Only of Peele are we certain ; and it is not 
impossible that these university bred men may heartily have dis- 
dained " the quality," as the profession of acting was then 
designated. Indeed " the actor-playwright " originated, as we 
have seen, in personages such as illiterate Tarlton and Wilson 
with his belated moralities; wherefore Greene's attitude of 
resentment towards the " upstart crow beautified with our 
feathers," for Shakespeare too, was an actor-playwright. 


The third decade of the reign of Elizabeth (1579- 15 88) is 
the period of Lyly with whose popularitj^ none could vie unless 
it may have been Dr. Gager with his Latin plays at Oxford or 
an occasional academic success such as the comedy Pedantius, 
the work of Anthony Wingfield or Edward Forcett, staged at 
Cambridge in 1 581. As to the popular stage, the best that it 
could boast in the early eighties was Wilson's Lords and Ladies 
of London, The Famous Victories of Tarlton and Peek's paro- 
dies (may we believe them such?), Locrine, the Senecan craze 
outdone, and The Old Wives' Tale, lively take-off of the he- 
roical romances. But in The Spanish Tragedy, Tamburlaine 
and Arden of Feversharn English Tragedy sprang to maturity. 
Enough has been said of the other two, the outcome respectively 
and the protest against Senecanism; Arden is the most truly 
indigenous of our earlier English tragedies. Here is told with 
realistic and simple frankness the story of a faithless wife, her 
infatuation for a coward beneath her and the busy plotting of 
the wretched couple to rid themselves of Arden, the unfortunate 
husband who suspects their amour. The story, the unknown 
author found in Holinshed and it has been followed with a 
fidelity that might be called slavish were not the result so effec- 
tive. And yet the material has been well ordered and the 
personages rationalised to a degree that no other English tragedy 
had reached before the year 1590. There is a power in the 
conception of the character of Alice Arden and a dignity about 
her repentance that places her among the great heroines of 
Elizabethan drama, and justifies a curious inquiry into the 
authorship of tragedy of such superlative merit. Arden has 
been thought the work of Kyd. But surely its unvarnished 
tragic actuality is widely in contrast with the romantic spirit 
and heightened Senecanism of The Spanish Tragedy. More 
strenuous has been the advocacy of Shakespeare's authorship, 
concerning which it is sufficient here to say that the art of the 
author of Arden of Feversharn is mature in its " ease and re- 
straint of style," in its weight and power to sustain character 
and in its grim mastery of humour and a peculiar irony of its 
own. None of these qualities were Shakespeare's at any time 
before the year 1592, the date of the publication of Arden; and 
moreover never is the quality of Shakespeare's art so divorced 
from the magic touch of poetry. 

The period from 1586 to 1593 is par excellence the period 
of Marlowe. Therein are contained not only his own tragic 


successes but those of his imitators, and the chronicle play 
develops by rapid strides from the stuttering attempts of Tarl- 
ton and the panoramic trilogy on Henry VI to the realisation 
of historical character in the older King John and the grasp of 
inevitable tragedy in Edward 11. No less important here is 
the natural comedy of rural life, compassed by Greene in Friar 
Bacon and The Pinner of Wakefield and his success in the more 
serious romantic comedy of The Scottish History of King James 
IV. Nor need we recur to other matters already sufficiently 
treated. Happy as Shakespeare was in his art and his genius, 
he was no less fortunate in these his " predecessors." It is 
somewhat remarkable how thoroughly they prepared the ground 
before him with experiment in what he was afterwards to 
triumph. Lyly offered to Shakespeare's imitation court man- 
ners and dialogue, wit and repartee ; Greene the naturalness of 
every day comedy, its humour, on occasion, its pathos. Kyd is 
the most constructive tragedian, touching with rough but 
not unskilful hand the psychology of revenge; while Marlowe 
gave the supreme example up to his time of tragic force and 
the power of the magic of poetry. And now having acted each 
his part, like well tried players, each hurried from the scene; 
Greene, Marlowe and Kyd were gone respectively in 1592, 
1593 and 1594; Peele by 1597. Only Lyly and Lodge were 
left to know the future of the drama the foundations of which 
they had helped to lay. But Lyly's was a repute of the past; 
Lodge was now interested in other matters. 



For the production of great works of art, we are told that 
the man and the moment must conspire. The moment in the his- 
tory of our drama had now arrived. The time of preparation 
and experiment was past. Early rivals had done their part in 
warning and example, and now had gone their way. In Shake- 
speare were realised the ideals of Elizabethan life and thought 
about life as such ideals had never been realised before. In his 
dramatic poetry is to be found the breadth and heights of Eliza- 
bethan hope and aspiration as well as an interpretation of the 
things that inexorably arc in the fulness of their reality. At 
this last we sometimes repine, wishing in him more circum- 
spection, more reserve, after the manner of these our later days 
of propriety and innuendo. But the largeness of Shakespeare 
lies in his fidelity to the actualities of human life and conduct 
in all its phases; and sweeps such as his take us both aloft into 
regions that we can see, however they may remain unattainable, 
and into the depths, the petty nooks and crannies in which hide 
the littleness, the baseness, and even the bestiality of men. 
Shakespeare's scope is the widest among poets and the most 
completely justified; for he sees things in their true relations. 
There need be no limits to the freedom of an art such as this, 
for he is at will idealist, realist, sentimentalist and satirist 
unerringly where ideality, realism, sentiment or satire apply. 
To see the world habitually through any one of these lenses 
is to be biased, unsteady, and afraid. Shakespeare's is the cour- 
age of freedom, and we may commit ourselves unreservedly 
into his hands, sure that, wherever he may lead us, ours is ever 
the steadying hand of truth in a cosmos, sane, ordered and 
eminently rational. 

As to the man, in a work such as this, there can assuredly be 
no need for the rehearsal of an often told tale. Shakespeare's 



extraction out of the sturdy yeoman stock of England, neither 
too high nor yet too low, was certainly no disadvantage to him. 
Nor could he have been happier than in the midland place of his 
birth, however it leaves the critics at a nonplus to explain his 
wit as an inheritance of the leavening salt of Gaul or his poetry 
by that magic wherein he is easily first, although he was as- 
suredly no Celt. In his education and earlier experiences in 
life, too, Shakespeare was fortunate. In Stratford neither men 
nor ideas were crowded. There was time to think and time 
to dream ; but who that knows those trifles of easy allusive mem- 
ory, " Will Squele, a Cotswold man, and Perkes of the Hill," 
" Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot," or " the whisters 
in I>achet-mead," can suppose that in Stratford Shakespeare 
only thought and dreamed ? A mayor's son might learn a little 
Latin and with it anatomize the character of a. pedant in 
Holofernes or Hugh Evans. A mayor's son, too, as a mere 
lad, might welcome the return, at no infrequent intervals, of 
player-folk from London and receive in their rude performances 
the powerful bias of his life, to be turned to an immediate and 
unexpected account when the necessity of providing for wife 
and child struck home to the youth of twenty. 

Of late the painful industry of generations of biographers of 
Shakespeare has been supplemented by a number of additional 
facts. We learn that Shakespeare's name appears in a couple 
of subsidy lists as a delinquent in the payment of his share of 
certain grants to the queen, a matter accounted for by the 
entry that " the said William Shakespeare had removed from 
Bishopsgate (the neighbourhood of the Theatre) to the Liberty 
of the Clink in Southwark," a locality not far from the Globe. 
Once more, in the case at law, Mountjoy vs. Bellott, the name 
of Shakespeare occurs as a witness again and again. In one 
of these occurrences he is described as " William Shakespeare of 
Stratford on Avon, gentleman," another is his deposition signed 
with his own hand. From these documents it further appears 
that Shakespeare lodged with Mountjoy, the plaintiff, who was 
a wig-maker and resided at the corner of Silver Street and 
Monkwell in the parish of St. Olave, not far from Cripplegate. 
We have thus no less than three localities of residence es- 
tablished for Shakespeare in London. Another case incidentally 
describes at length the details of the organisation and process 
of sharing which characterised the company of players to which 
Shakespeare was for years attached. By means of it we learn 


that Shakespeare held originally a tenth share in the Globe 
theatre which by the admission of other sharers was finally 
reduced to a fourteenth, though the process could have involved 
no decrease in the value of his share; that he also owned a 
seventh interest in the private theatre in Blackfriars; and that 
these shares seem originally to have been acquired merely by an 
agreement to assume responsibility for the rental and main- 
tenance of these playhouses. In time these shares became very 
valuable; but the statement of the plaintiff in this case that an 
interest such as Shakespeare's was worth £300 in the con- 
temporary value of money, and therefore £2000 or more in our 
money, is clearly an exaggeration intended to increase damages, 
Shakespeare was well off for his station and for his time, and 
it is a credit to the discernment and taste of his contemporaries 
that his plays should have made Shakespeare's fortune. Still 
another case, turned up as were these two last in the Records* 
Office by the industry of Professor C. W. Wallace, is endorsed 
with the remarkable caption, Shakespeare vs. Bacon.^ Few 
will deny, indeed, that Shakespeare has had of late years, owing 
to the activity of certain eccentric and uninstructed persons in 
cryptograms and in digging under English rivers, an unusually 
good case against Bacon. But unhappily the defendant in this 
Jacobean law suit was not Francis, but an obscure Matthew 
Bacon who, according to the poet's bill of complaint, dated 
April 26, 1615 (just about a year before his death), was 
alleged wrongfully to have detained certain " letters patent, 
deeds, evidences, charters, and writings," concerning the title 
of Shakespeare and others plaintiffs to various houses " within 
the precinct of Blackfriars in the city of London." The in- 
ference as to Shakespeare is not unimportant, as it discloses him 
actively interested in his business and property ventures in the 
city to the last, and not, as has hitherto been accepted, in his 
latter years retired from them as from writing for the stage. 

Other new discoveries concerning Shakespeare are less im- 
portant, however interesting: That he was paid "44s in 
gold " for the design of an impressa or semi-heraldic pictorial 
badge with its attendant motto for the Earl of Rutland; that 

1 See the various publications of C. W. Wallace in The London 
Standard, Oct., 1905; Englische Studien, xxxvi, 1906; The Times, Oct. 
2 and 4, 1909. Harper's Magazine, March, 1910; the Century Maga- 
zine, Sept., 1910, and elsewhere. 


he was regarded by a splenetic contemporary critic of the 
Heralds' Office as one of those who " outrage truth and de- 
cency " in his endeavour to secure a coat of arms; that his 
father, described as " a merry cheeked old man," is reported to 
have said that " Will was a good, honest fellow, but he darst 
have cracked a jest with him at any time." 

Conjecture is easy where the facts are so disconnected and 
remote, and there are many more varieties of pen portraits of 
Shakespeare than there are pictures of the day and of later 
fabrication that purport to record the features of his face. 
With the plays before us and their attendant poems, with the 
circumstances of their writing so far as we know, their acting 
and their publication, all so natural and so absolutely in ac- 
cord with the practises of the time, it is wantonly gratuitous 
to find any difficulty or invent any mystery about them. As to 
Shakespeare personally, we have a hundred contemporary testi- 
monies and traditions galore that he was " excellent in the 
quality that he professed," that he was gentle, thoughtful and 
kindly, that he was capable and alert in argument. What 
more could we wish to know of his estimable nature, for ex- 
ample, than the fact that he " was adored on this side of Idola- 
try," by a man like Jonson who customarily adored, however 
he may occasionally have approved them, few men and poets 
save himself. As to the plays, judiciously considered and at 
large, they tell us indubitably what manner of man Shakespeare 
was, however they may fail in those petty matters biographical 
that men, infinitely meaner in their natures, may conceal with 
unimportant cunning in the pages of their works. We may 
assume with confidence that Shakespeare was neither an 
abandoned sensualist, a sinner the loss of whose Immortal soul 
was the price of his matchless experience in the world, nor yet 
an impeccable Prospero, exercising his art of legerdemain with 
a condescending pity for that human weakness and passion In 
which he had never shared. There Is no condescension In 
Shakespeare, and the absolute success with which he has made 
himself one with his personages, that actor's power that has 
enabled him to wear many masks, each for the nonce sympa- 
thetically, without once disclosing the actual face behind It, 
alone Is sufficient to account for the many portraits that Ingen- 
ious malice and Ignorant adoration have contrived In distortion. 
To the superficial reader w^ho takes his Impressions from the 
passage before him, and then, laying his Shakespeare aside, 


generalises a cosmos from his chosen point of departure, this 
great poet and philosopher must remain an enigma if not a 
subject for ingenious speculation. To him who knows the 
age, his Shakespeare entire and the other writers that stood, 
a mighty forest, rich in undergrowth as well, about him, to him 
who remembers that the first condition of the drama consists in 
a " notable feigning " and in the sinking of the author's self 
in his personages, there is no higher example of order and 
consistency than the works of Shakespeare. With his hundreds 
of personages and thousand situations, expressing opinion and 
idea, we can usually tell none the less the author's position 
and learn his attitude towards the personages involved : and 
this attitude is commonly more charitable, more kindly, more 
logical, too, and just than our own. Wherefore Shakespeare's 
consistent fulfilment of the highest function of poetry, that of 
offering us a guide to a wider and truer outlook on life. 

The details of Shakespeare's career as a dramatic writer are 
as irrecoverable as are similar details concerning his contem- 
poraries who were similarly circumstanced in life. There is 
danger in assuming too early and phenomenal a success for the 
countrj'bred lad of Stratford. Shakespeare even must have 
needed time in which to learn and to observe. At any rate he 
must have been well past the period of mere apprenticeship by 
the year 1590, for two years later he had attracted the envy of 
Greene and inspired his slighting allusions in a Groatsivorth of 
Wit together with Chettle's recognition and apology in Kind- 
Heart's Dream which immediately followed. In the succeed- 
ing years come the dedications of Venus and Adonis and of 
Lucrece to Shakespeare's patron, the Earl of Southampton and 
the beginnings of the long series of entries of published plays 
in the Stationers' Register. Shakespeare had found himself by 
the date of the death of Marlowe and the town had recognised 
him. As to the manner of his apprenticeship, there is no rea- 
son to believe it different from that of other playwrights. 
Shakespeare must first have been *' a hired man " or assistant 
about the theatre, charged with bringing out and putting away 
the properties and aiding the actors and sharers. He was un- 
doubtedly employed very early in small parts and, possessing 
less the genius of mimicry than that of creation, never rose to 
the repute of his friend, Richard Burbage, as an actor. Tra- 
dition relates that Adam in As You Like It and the ghost in 
Hamlet were roles of Shakespeare. Clearly a sonorous voice 


and a fine bearing must have been imperative in the latter part. 
Perhaps, as Professor Matthews believes, Shakespeare pre- 
ferred the roles of thoughtful elderly men. The folio of Ben 
Jonson's Works, i6i6, is witness that Shakespeare took a part 
in the Roman tragedy of Sejanus and in the comedy of Every 
Man In His Humour; but what parts it is impossible to say. 
The listing of actors came into vogue only late in Shakespeare's 
career, hence the paucity of our information on the subject. 
But Shakespeare's opportunity came otherwise. In the incessant 
revision to which acting dramas were subject under the exigen- 
cies of revival, performance at court, in the provinces, with a 
greater or a smaller number of players, a ready pen and inven- 
tive dramatic cleverness were in urgent demand. And here 
Shakespeare was able to show his mettle. The degree of 
Shakespeare's participancy in the plays assigned by common 
consent to the earliest period of his authorship must remain 
matter of perennial debate; for the evidence recoverable is and 
must continue insufficient, however assured we may feel of the 
general proposition. It is not enough for the critic to feel in 
his inner consciousness that Shakespeare could or could not 
possibly have written this, that or the other line or passage; 
his doubts must be based on external evidences, however grace- 
ful a superstructure of inference his ingenuity may be able 
subsequently to rear. For example, take the whole vexed ques- 
tion of the trilogy of plays on Henry VI, included by general 
consent and the sanction of the folios in all editions of Shake- 
speare. For the first of these plays, no version save that of the 
folio exists; the other two occur in a very different form as 
the first and second parts of The Contention between the Two 
Noble Houses of York and Lancaster, printed in 1594- -^ 
comparison of this version with that of the folio discloses a line 
for line revision of the two Contentions, a correction of obvi- 
ous mistakes and an occasional reordering of material in the in- 
terest of a more effective dramatic presentation. As to the 
first part of Henry VI, there is no opportunity for such a com- 
parison ; but there is a striking allusion by Nash to the extraor- 
dinary success, in 1592, of a play in which Talbot figured as 
a hero in his warfare against the French. The scenes that con- 
cern Talbot in the first part of Henry VI, as we have it, are 
written with peculiar animation as compared with many other 
scenes of the same play. The all but certain inference is 
that the success of this revision of an earlier and now lost 


version of the play, now known as Shakespeare's first part of 
Henry VI, was due to Shakespeare's insertion or rewriting of 
the scenes that depict Talbot. Once more, there remains ex- 
tant an old drama in two parts called The Troublesome Reign 
of King John which covers very nearly the ground traversed by 
Shakespeare's play on that king. Here comparison reveals a 
different process. What Shakespeare did was to retain the 
general course of events and the personages of the old play, 
and then refashion the material into one drama of a superior 
unity and workmanship. But it was not in the chronicle play 
alone that we find Shakespeare thus working over old material. 
Similarly it is problematic to what extent Shakespeare's hand 
remade The Taming of a Shrew into The Taming of the 
Shrew; certainly the scenes between Katharine and Petruchio 
are thoroughly remodelled ; while even as to Romeo and Juliet, 
existent in two Shakespearean versions, who knows, had we the 
lost tragedy alluded to by Brooke as on the stage three years 
before the birth of Shakespeare, that the case might not exhibit 
a parallel in the matter of revision, to that of King John? 

This period of work with the material of other men must 
have been well over for Shakespeare before the death of Mar- 
lowe; more definitely than this it is impossible to speak with 
confidence. And now there succeeded a time of experiment and 
imitation. When Shakespeare first came up to London the 
popular stage was ringing with the successes of Kyd and Mar- 
lowe, and tragedy and chronicle history held the vogue of the 
moment. If Shakespeare had any hand in Titus Andronicus, 
which the present writer would like to believe that he had not, 
this must have been the time when writing of matter at the 
furthest extremity from his own feelings and experience, he 
strained his art to outdo the grewsomeness and horror of 
popularised Seneca in this revolting tragedy. We are on safer 
ground when we turn to Richard III, the most Marlowesque of 
the Shakespearean dramas. Richard is conceived, by the help 
of tradition and previous stage representation, as a monster of 
moral depravity, a figure of heroic proportions and heroic 
wickedness and perfidy, stalking through life regardless of any- 
thing but his own ruthless ambition. This is Marlowe's con- 
ception of the tragic protagonist and comparable not only in 
conception but likewise in execution — in a certain largeness 
of phrase, force of passion and objectiveness of poetic spirit — 
with Tamburlaine, Faustus and Barabas, the heroes of Mar- 


lowe. Plainly the young Shakespeare recognised this com- 
manding genius in tragedy and strove here to rival him in his 
own art. In comedy, too, Shakespeare was at first equally 
imitative, and here his supreme example was as naturally at 
hand. Comedy lagged after her sister tragedy on the popular 
stage, and there could be little choice of models between the 
jejune moralities of Wilson, heroical absurdities such as Fair 
Em or even light, trivial Mucedorus and the finished comedies 
of Lyly at court. Love's Labour s Lost is Shakespeare's en- 
deavour to write an original comedy in the manner of Lyly. 
Shakespeare's play is as politically allusive and as personally 
satirical, as bright and packed with wit and repartee. And it 
has, too, the Lylyan quality of having been carefully prepared 
and of not always being resonant with the timbre of spontaneity. 
Shakespeare threw aside mythology and allegory in his play 
which Lyly had for the most part preserved. To mythology 
Shakespeare afterwards returned for atmosphere in A Mid- 
summer Night's Dream, the latest of his plays to be affected by 
Lyly's art of the court. Love's Labour's Lost has the distinc- 
tion of being the only play of Shakespeare's in which the plot 
has not been traced to an extraneous source in whole or in 
part. Clever and interesting though it is, its picture of the 
conversation and manners of gentlewomen and courtiers is ama- 
teurish, however excellent a copy of like converse in the come- 
dies of Lyly. It is perhaps worthy of note that in both Love's 
Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream a play is 
attempted within the play by ridiculous amateurs before great 
people, and in both the conduct of the great as to these well 
meant endeavours is not above reproach on the score of con- 
sideration and common civility. Could Shakespeare have 
known the merciless banter that takes advantage of intrenched 
position? Or did Shakespeare laugh, as most of us are wont 
to laugh, with the majority and feel, even as early as Love's 
Labour's Lost, the professional's contempt for that creature, 
most loathed of gods and men, the would-be player. 

Shakespeare made no second attempt at the allusive court 
drama of Lyly; but he tried other experiments. The fun and 
mischance of disguise, already well represented in Gascoigne's 
Supposes and in the intrigue of Roman comedy, now attracted 
his attention and The Comedy of Errors was the result, a play 
in which the improbabilities of mistaken identity, as exhibited in 
his source the Mencechmi of Plautus, are frankly seized and 


doubled, and all attempt at characterisation is as frankly and 
rationally sacrificed to farcical situation. But although Shake- 
speare employed the mistake in identity again (in Viola and her 
brother Sebastian in Twelfth Night for example), The Comedy 
of Errors remains his only experiment, his one success, in 
Plautine comedy. With The Two Gentlemen of Verona 
Shakespeare found his bent in comedy. Free from the allu- 
sive satire of Lyly, the intrigue of Plautus and the impeding 
morality element of Wilson, here was a romantic love story, told 
dramatically for its own sake with opportunity for event, char- 
acter and situation, all harmoniously to develop into artistic 
unity. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not among the most 
successful comedies of Shakespeare; but it is the first comedy 
of a kind destined to become exceedingly popular and a produc- 
tion of extraordinary promise. Moreover it presages many of 
the personages that Shakespeare afterwards worked up into a 
completer realisation. Julia, the resourceful maiden, arrayed 
as a page, seeking her lover yet womanly withal, Lucetta, the 
pert waiting-woman, the contrasted " two gentlemen," the 
faithful and the recreant, Launce, the droll serving man, all 
are sketches subsequently developed and difFerentiated among 
the enduring comedy folk of Shakespeare. 

To return to the chronicle play, if Shakespeare imitated the 
gait and manner of Marlowe in Richard III, he had that poet 
almost equally in mind in Richard II. Edward II must have 
been Marlowe's latest play. It was published very shortly 
after his death and we have no reason to doubt that it main- 
tained to the full the repute of his earlier dramas. The theme 
of Edivard II details the fate of an unkingly king, one whose 
unfitness to rule and wanton disregard for the obligations of 
his office and his manhood convert him into a pitiable object, 
dethroned, disgraced, and at last miserably murdered. The 
only other English monarch, whose career and end can be de- 
scribed in terms almost identical, was Richard II, the careless 
and dishonourable son of the Black Prince. It seems incredible 
that Shakespeare should have chosen such a theme and produced 
his Richard II, not long after the death of Marlowe, without 
a full recognition of his own daring. Moreover, whatever its 
similarity in subject, Richard II is written with an independence 
and spirit, new as compared with Shakespeare's previous efforts 
in the chronicle play. Richard II is Shakespeare rivalling Mar- 
lowe but free from his leading strings and example; for what 


could be further removed from the Marlowesque hero than 
the poetic egotist and poseur, Richard II, consoled in the hour 
of his discrowning and almost in the very moment of his taking 
off by his theatrical sense of picturesqueness. Richard II is 
Shakespeare's first great study in character; for John was a 
copy, and Richard Crookback the imitation of an established 
tradition. In the tragedy of King Richard II Shakespeare 
emerged absolutely from tutelage in serious drama to display 
unmistakably that fine scrutiny into the mainsprings of human 
passion and conduct, ever subordinated to artistic and dramatic 
limitations, that distinguishes him above other poets. 

It is familiar to students and to most general readers that 
our popularly accepted chronology of the Shakespearean plays 
is the result of a consensus of scholarly opinion and that much 
of it Is founded on inference and argument, neither lightly to 
be disturbed nor yet to be accepted otherwise than in a spirit of 
hopeful and provisional faith. The famous mention by Francis 
Meres, in 1598, of twelve plays by name has been described as 
" our one rock of certainty in a sea of surmise." Yet even 
this rock is not absolutely secure. Meres' book Is entitled 
Palladis Tamia, or Wit's Treasury, *' a comparative discourse 
of our English poets with the Greek, Latin and Italian poets," 
and his method requires a nice balancing of names, titles, and 
characteristics, in all of which he is somewhat priggish. More- 
over, Meres may not have been infallible. His testimony in 
including Titus Andronicus among the tragedies of Shake- 
speare has fastened that dubious clog about the poet's neck; 
and the critics are still happily undecided as to what comedy 
Meres could have had in mind under his title Love's Labour's 
Won. Was it All's Well That Ends Well or Much Ado 
About Nothing where Beatrice and Benedick in a sense both 
win? Was it The Taming of the Shrew wherein the hapless 
Katharine Is won with labour but assuredly not with love? 
Or may it have been some comedy, now lost save for this soli- 
tary record of its title? Moreover does the mention of just 
twelve plays by Meres preclude the possibility of Shakespeare's 
having written more, unknown to this pragmatic critic of 1598? 
As to the order of the plays of Shakespeare thus far mentioned, 
leaving the revisions of the plays on Henry VI aside, the poet 
seems to have been busy with the three experimental comedies, 
Love's Labour's Lost, The Comedy of Errors, and The Two 
Gentlemen of Verona, up to the close of 1 59 1, when apparently 


he turned seriously to chronicle history, writing King John, 
Richard III and Richard II, perhaps in this order during 1592 
and 1593, and then turning back to comedy in The Merchant 
of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1594 and 1595. 
Romeo and Juliet, published in a form suggesting revision in 
1597, comes in somewhere here and, in 1597 too, Shakespeare 
continues his work in the chronicle play with the first part 
of Henry IF. So much for the generally accepted order of 
Shakespeare's dramas up to the date of the list of Meres. 

And now Shakespeare bloomed forth in the full strength of 
his dramatic maturity, freed once and for all from competi- 
tion that he need never to have feared. In some respects 
there is no completer example of Elizabethan dramatic art 
than The Merchant of Venice, however our appreciation may be 
staled by the base use of this exquisite comedy in childhood for 
" educational purposes." Here is a just intermingling of 
romance with the hard actualities of life, passion trembling on 
the verge of tragedy and comedy charmingly triumphant after 
all. To the Elizabethan, Shylock was the ogre in the fairy 
tale, a mixture of the fearful and the comically grotesque; An- 
tonio was the Christian gentleman who spat upon him as a 
creature noisome and righteously detested ; Bassanio, the gentle- 
man adventurer, frankly a suitor for the golden Portia's wealth 
as much as for herself, and unashamed. Modernity plays 
frightful pranks with the artless truth of our old drama and 
nowhere more so than in this play. We sigh as we think of 
Portia, sacrificed to the fortune-hunting Bassanio and, recognis- 
ing modern, perhaps Ibsenesque, examples of like occurrences, 
wonder if the couple could possibly have been happy after. In 
Antonio, we find that his heartlessness in not claiming the Jew 
from the first as a brother is really the cause of his ail-but un- 
doing; and we feel dissatisfied that the drama should not have 
ended as a tragedy. But our greatest transformation is that 
of Shylock in whom some unwise critics have discovered the 
prophetic answer to current anti-Semitism. Save for the un- 
filial daughters of King Lear and lago perhaps, Shakespeare has 
scarcely ever drawn a personage wholly and irrevocably bad; 
and that is because he is so unafFectedly true to human nature. 
The pathos of Shylock is totally of nineteenth century manu- 
facture and as absurd as It is gratuitous. It is referable, like 
our modern shudder at the robust punishment meted out to the 
Jew, to our emasculated contemporary sentimentality that habit- 


ually meddles with clumsy hand to interpose between human 
acts of folly and criminality and their logical consequences. 
Least of all writers does Shakespeare need our help in reading 
into his works high ideals, fine distinctions and the metaphysics 
of twentieth century conduct. Barring some cases in which 
the conventions of his time clung about him, as they must about 
all whose lot is mortal, Shakespeare's are the ethics of all time; 
ours, when we seek to expand his humanity or explain away 
the conditions of the world in which he lived, are ridiculous and 

J Midsummer Night's Dream is Shakespeare's latest return 
to the manner of the old court drama. The intention of this 
play for a performance at court or as part of the entertainment 
on the occasion of a noble marriage has been thought sufficient 
to explain its nature in this particular. Whether the comedy 
is to be interpreted as containing no more than a passing allusion 
in complimentary terms to the Earl of Leicester's courtship, 
some twenty years before, of the imperial votress fancy free or 
much more, now hidden from us by the lapse of time, must de- 
pend largely on the success of ingenious scholarship. In these 
matters it is as easy to treat the subject carelessly with pre- 
conceived ideas as to probabilities drawn from our own con- 
temporary experiences as it is to carry our own interpretations 
of this old drama into details that must remain forever beyond 
us. Indubitably the age was fond of enigmas, involved allu- 
sions, veiled compliments to monarchy and the nobility and the 
like, and Shakespeare was not above his time in these respects, 
witness the allusions to Elizabeth in this play and the more 
direct ones in Henry V to the friend of his patron Southampton 
the unfortunate Earl of Essex.- More interesting to us Is 
Shakespeare's composite art In this fanciful comedy and his 
delightful uplift of the fairy-lore of his country into a dainty 
mythology that has set the standard In this particular for all 
literature that has followed. What for example, could be 
more unpromising than the current superstitions of the country- 
side as to that uncouth oaf, Lob-Lie-by-the-FIre, a lout and 
the conception of louts, and the malicious goblin Robin Good- 
fellow, fused and transformed into the lithesome and volatile 
Puck, winged servant of those delightful little creatures Oberon 

^A Midsummer Night's Dream, ii, i. 148-174; Henry V, the chorus 
preceding Act V. 


and Titania, with their human foibles and bickerings, and their 
dehcate retinue Cobweb, Mustardseed, Pease Blossom and the 
rest. And then the daring juxtaposition of these sylphs with 
the delicious humour of Bottom and his base mechanicals, the 
wandering lovers in the mazes of the wood and the semi- 
classical figures of Theseus and Hyppolita a background for all. 
Never has there been art more unorthodox, more incongruous, 
more warranted in its success, than this. We have only to com- 
pare Shakespeare's fairies with those of his contemporaries, Jon- 
son or Drayton say, for example, to see how immeasurably 
he stands above them in this world of imaginative fancy as 
in that which has to do with the realities of human pas- 

It was about 1596 or 1597 that Shakespeare turned once 
more to the chronicle play to reach in the trilogy of Henry IV 
and Henry V the height of Elizabethan attainment in this 
species of drama. In these plays Shakespeare returns to the 
epic quality of this variety of drama and retains another early 
feature, their mingling with deeds of high historic import, an 
invented underplot of humorous relief. For his material the 
poet has recourse as usual to Holinshed's Chronicles of Eng- 
land, his customary quarry where the history of his native coun- 
try was in question ; but, as usual with Shakespeare in his earlier 
work, here, too, an old play intervened to suggest the subject. 
The play in question is the half-illiterate Famous History of 
Henry V, ascribed to Richard Tarlton. In no place has Shake- 
speare so transfigured the old material; although the sugges- 
tion of the relations between Prince Hal and his austere father, 
the scene of the purloining of the crown and even the hint of 
a humorous companion of the Prince, old, stout, unvenerable 
and named Oldcastle, all come from the older play. Apropos 
of Oldcastle, a couple of allusions in Shakespeare's text point to 
the circumstance that that was the name under which Falstaff 
first appeared in Shakespeare's first part of Henry IV. Noth- 
ing could have been more unsuitable than such a misrepresenta- 
tion of the famous Lollard nobleman of old time and, whether 
because of objection by those interested or for other reasons, 
the name of Sir John Falstaff was soon substituted for the part. 

8 On the general subject, see the present writer's " Some Features of 
the Supernatural as represented in Plays of the Reigns of Elizabeth and 
James," Modern Philology, i, June, 1903. 


Such an opportunity was not to be lost and in Sir John Old- 
castle, a rambling chronicle play by Michael Drayton and three 
collaborators, " the true story of Oldcastle " was set on a rival 
stage and the Shakespearean personage, Falstaff, was frankly 
imitated in the character of the " humorous " hedge priest 
Sir John of Wrotham, It was the success of Falstaff that en- 
couraged not only his appearance in 2 Henry IV but the com- 
position of The Merry Wives of Windsor which was written, 
according to an old tradition, at the request of Elizabeth who 
was desirous of seeing Sir John in love. 

Falstaff was by far the most popular comedy figure on the 
Elizabethan stage; he is more frequently mentioned in con- 
temporary allusion than any other personage and was again and 
again imitated but never approached. The idea of a group 
of " irregular humourists," as they have been called, such as 
FalstafE and his rout of folly, may have been suggested by the 
immediate success of the moment, Jonson's comedy, Every Man 
In His Humour. Certainly Ancient Pistol, with his play- 
house phrases and his Cambyses vein of rant and bombast, is a 
personage simply enough compact of " humours," and so is 
Nym and, to a less extent, bottle-nosed Bardolph. As to Fal- 
staff, the complexity of his personality and the triumphant 
transcendency of his wit stand out immeasurably beyond any- 
thing that Jonson, with all his power and constructive in- 
genuity, ever compassed. It is a moot question as to whether 
the Falstaff of The Merry Wives is really the same personage 
as Prince Henry's resourceful, and incomparable companion in 
arms and mischief ; and assuredly it is something of a shock to 
find the Hector of Dame Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, he who 
fought with fierce Percy of the North for a long hour by 
Shrewsbury clock — for have we not his word for it? — re- 
duced to the adventure of the buck-basket and to pinching at the 
hands of mock fairies to reduce his lecherous blood. Yet it 
might not be difficult to show that an absolute artistic logic 
rules the character of Falstaff throughout the plays in which 
he appears. Indeed nowhere is Shakespeare's fidelity to human 
nature and to those invisible laws that rule human nature more 
consummately exercised than here. With a personal charm 
absolutely irresistible we recognise none the less in Falstaff to 
the full his worthlessness, his immorality, his chicanery and in- 
curable grossness and we approve while we regret the rigour 
of the Prince's final repudiation of him, however we share 


Dame Quickly's pious hope, expressed in her pathetic account 
of his death, that " he is in Arthur's bosom." 

That Shakespeare was led on from Richard II, his earliest 
independent study of historical character, to the plays on Henry 

IV seems, considering their probable sequence in point of time, 
altogether likely. Politic Henry Bolingbroke offered a striking 
contrast to Richard, " the skipping king " ; and no less dis- 
tinctly is Henry represented once more in contrast with the 
son whom he so little understood as the Prince is set against 
his engaging rival, Hotspur. A fine heroic spirit pervades 
Shakespeare's scenes of the old chivalric warfare. Too humane 
to take joy in the barbarism of these internecine feuds, their 
pageantry, pomp of war and ceremony lent themselves admirably 
to Shakespeare's artist's sense of the picturesque while the 
deeper well-springs of thought and action which life involves 
ofifered him his true theme to raise his historical plays im- 
measurably above the contemporary craft of most of his com- 
petitors. It is difficult for the educated modern reader to do 
justice to the historical personages of Shakespeare because he 
is habituated to think so absolutely in their terms. _ The pa- 
thetic child figure of Prince Arthur, the monstrous Richard III, 
calculating Bolingbroke, smitten with the mouldering fire of 
remorse, thick-spoken, impetuous Hotspur, devout, heroic Henry 

V — these princes of England have received, like many a lesser 
personage, the stamp of Shakespeare's royal mint once and for 
all, and mere history may interpret and explain as it will, the 
impression of the master poet alone remains lasting. ^ It is not 
usual to think of Shakespeare as a patriotic writer. Yet 
which of our poets has devoted a third of his activity to the 
celebration of the heroic deeds of English men and princes? 
And which has accepted love of country so unaflFectedly, so as 
a thing to feel and not to prate about as this same gentle 
Elizabethan? To the noble list of his chronicle plays Shake- 
speare was to add but one more, Henry VIII, and that at a 
later time when the recent death of Elizabeth called the atten- 
tion of the nation to the annals of the Tudor princes which 
were staged in play after play as we write up the career of a 
deceased monarch in our newspapers upon his demise. Thither 
we shall not follow now but turn back to some of Shakespeare's 
immediate contemporaries in romantic comedy and history more 
particularly during the last dozen years of the old queen's 


Shakespeare wrote many more chronicle plays than any one 
of his fellow playwrights, but several of them joined, as others 
had preceded him, in this endeavour to place histor}^ in a series 
of vivid epic and dramatic scenes on the popular boards. Were 
we looking so wide afield, it might not be difficult to make 
clear that this vogue of historical drama was only one mani- 
festation of the national consciousness which the repulse of the 
Armada and other English successes in arms and diplomacy had 
fanned into blaze. In literature this begot, besides these 
patriotic plays, the ponderous prose chronicles of Halle, Holin- 
shed and Stow, innumerable lesser " histories " and biographies, 
and poems lyric, epic and topographical such as those of Daniel, 
Drayton, Warner and more.* To return to the drama, the 
rise of the chronicle play in the hands of the predecessors of 
Shakespeare, Greene, Peele, Marlowe and the rest, and the 
place of earlier chronicle histories such as the older King John, 
the older plays on Richard III and the two "Contentions" 
which concern the Wars of the Roses and furnished Shake- 
speare with materials, are matters already sufficiently discussed. 
Besides these more kingly plays, there were, in the nineties, 
several biographical chronicles, as they may be called, that dif- 
fered very little from the main species in their conduct and 
subject-matter. Such a play is the anonymous Sir Thomas 
More which so prudent a critic as Spedding once thought good 
enough in parts for Shakespeare's hand. Such, too, was The 
History of Thomas Lord Cromwell, the capable Machiavellian 
minister of Henry \"III and that of Captain Stukeley in which 
is set forth the career of a fascinating adventurer who en- 
deavoured to carve out a kingdom for himself and found com- 
fort and abetment among the enemies of England, to die at last 
an heroic death as the ally of Don Sebastian against the Moors 
at the battle of Alcazar. 

An important name among the immediate competitors of 
Shakespeare in the chronicle play is that of Thomas Heywood, 
long to maintain, as we shall see, for other dramatic work, a 
high place in the favour of the lovers of popular drama. Hey- 
wood began experimentally, as did Shakespeare, and one of his 
earliest endeavours was chronicle history. The subject-matter 
of this early attempt, Heywood found in the annals of King 

4 For a list of these works and their relations to the historical drama, 
see the present writer's The English Chronicle Play, 1902. 


Edward IV; but he combined with material merely historical 
the pathetic story of Jane Shore, the royal mistress, thus giving 
to his scenes a bias towards the domestic drama in which he 
was later to reach his most permanent recognition. Edward IV 
is a rambling production, containing however many scenes not 
only dramatically capable but reaching the heart with that 
unaffected pathos of which this old poet was one of the masters. 
I have not hesitated elsewhere to declare that touching little 
scene in which the two youthful princes, children of King 
Edward, are represented in the Tower, separated from their 
mother and their protectors with the shadow of murder stalk- 
ing towards them, as capable of holding its own in its natural 
simplicity against the poetry that Shakespeare employs to de- 
scribe the same situation ; ° and the whole episode of Jane Shore 
and her relations to her wronged husband is as wholesome 
ethically as it is effective from a dramatic point of view. But 
all this is little of the stuff of chronicles. The Heywood of 
later years and achievement will claim our attention in his place. 
Edward IV represents the chronicle history diverted into a 
drama of the domestic relations. Other interests entered in to 
dilute history: thus the anonymous Look About You, 1599, 
although the story includes King John among its personages, 
is mainly a diverting comedy of disguises; Munday and Chet- 
tle's two plays on Robert Earl of Huntingdon (otherwise 
Robin Hood), 1598, concern also the unlawful pursuit by the 
same John Lackland of " Matilda Lord Fitz-Waltcr's daugh- 
ter," while many other plays make the historical setting of the 
scene in the reign of a given English sovereign simply the 
background of a play of totally different interest. None the 
less it is possible to gather together of dramas treating English 
kings and historical personages a goodly number. And this 
can be extended to more than a hundred titles if we include 
pla3's on subjects set in the scene of the mythological Britain 
of Geoffrey of Monmouth and his like. To this class belong 
Gorboduc, Macbeth, and King Lear, as well as many plays the 
titles only of which have been handed down. The easy faith 
of a credulous age made no attempt to distinguish between the 
historical authenticity of Brutus, founder of Britain, Merlin 
the magician or King Arthur, with his knights of an impossible 
chivalric age, and such personages as Edward I, the Black 
Prince or Henry Monmouth; and the plaj'wrights scraped up 
^ Ibid., p. 147. 


every adventure, every vi^ar, intrigue and petty conspiracy, and 
added matter of their own from British and Roman times to 
the coming of the Saxons, Danes and Normans, to say nothing 
more of later times. There is no English monarch from Ed- 
ward the Confessor and William the Conqueror to Philip and 
Mary who is unrepresented in some one of these plays and 
some of them, as for example Richard III, enter into half a 
dozen plays or more.® When James came to the throne he 
might have seen the " facts " of the Gowry conspiracy, a per- 
sonal adventure of his own, enacted on the stage. The age 
was free spoken and, certain matters of state, religion and 
foreign affairs excepted, any man might say what he liked. 
Elizabeth meddled very little with freedom in such matters 
and most of the cases of royal intervention, that have come 
down to us in her reign and even in the next, are referable to 
the complaints lodged by an ambassador or other foreigner of 
importance. One matter regarding a play of Shakespeare de- 
serves a word in this connection. It appears that in 1599. 
when the conspiracy of Essex was in process, several of his fol- 
lowers induced the Chamberlain's men (Shakespeare's com- 
pany) to act before them a play " of King Harry the IVth 
and of the killing of Richard II " by promising the players 
" forty shillings more than their ordinary for it." Elizabeth 
was very much affected by this and afterwards told her Recorder 
of the Tower, Lambarde, that by Richard she herself was in- 
tended and her dethronement aimed at therein.' It may be 
remarked that the scene of Richard's deposition in Richard II 
does not appear in any of the quarto editions of that play and 
that it was restored to its place in the text for the first time 
in the folio, years after Shakespeare's death. 

The chief contemporary rivals of Shakespeare in the produc- 
tion of chronicle plays were the plaj'wrights employed by Philip 
Henslowe who was the backer and exploiter of two or three 
theatrical companies, and who fortunately left behind him a 
Diary, as it has been called, of which we shall hear much more 
in the next chapter. Henslowe employed many poets and the 
habit of collaboration was prevalent among them, sometimes as 
many as four — as in the familiar case of Oldcastle, the work 
of Drayton, Chettle, Munday and Wilson — engaging in a 

6 See the table and classification of these plays in the same. 

7 See Nichols, Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, iii, 552. 


single play. It was thus that a ready supply was to be had 
for an immediate demand; and the only wonder is that work 
thus hastily and even perfunctorily done should often remain 
so vital and readable. As to the authors just named, Michael 
Drayton was the friend of Jonson and Shakespeare and became, 
in later years, the most popular successor of Spenser in general 
poetry. He appears to have been somewhat ashamed of his 
connection with the stage and covered up his tracks with a 
success discouraging to the modern investigator. Henry Chettle 
is memorable, aside from one extant play, as the editor of 
Greene's notorious Groatsworth of IVit and for his own apology 
to Shakespeare in his pamphlet Kind Heart's Dream soon after. 
Robert Wilson the younger is distinguishable from Robert 
Wilson the elder, author of The Three Lords and Ladies of 
London, and of him we know little more; while Munday was 
a well known balladist, translator and pamphleteer in addition 
to his contribution of much loose work to the drama. These 
men, together with Day, Wilkins, Haughton, Hathway and 
several others, continuously appear in Henslow/s Diary, al- 
though their work was by no means confined to the chronicle 
play but ranged through every variety of drama which the 
teeming imaginations of their fertile time could invent. 

Besides his Edward IV, Heywood is the author of one of 
the less interesting of the group of plays which chronicle Tudor 
subjects, // You Know Not Me You Know Nobody, 1 604. 
This rambling production concerns the life of the late Queen 
as did likewise Dekker's strange allegorical Whore of Babylon 
in which, suffice it to say, King Henry VIII appears as the 
fairy King Oberon. Of the same date and kindred in title to 
Heywood's // You Know Not Me, is Samuel Rowley's When 
You See Me You Know Me, the coarse and occasionally ribald 
scenes of which detail events in the life at court of the same 
monarch much as they might have been seen from below stairs 
and traditionally reported. The relation of this play to Shake- 
speare's King Henry VHI (at some time known to the stage 
as All Is True) appears in the prologue of the latter. Its 
probable later revision by Fletcher does not concern us here. 
Still another chronicle play of the Tudor group is the slightly 
earlier Sir Thomas Wyatt, 1602, in which the well known 
dramatists Dekker and Webster collaborated to tell of the un- 
fortunate young conspirator who attempted to antedate the 
accession of Queen Elizabeth by a few months to his own 


complete undoing. Among authors in the kindred group of 
plays on mythological British history we find Thomas Lodge 
accredited by some with the older version of the story of King 
Lear, 1593, which he spelled " Leir " and concluded happily; 
and Robert Armin, the comic actor, author of The Valiant 
Welshman, 1595, 1 mediocre play on Caractacus diluted with 
much invention. The Birth of Merlin and The Shoemaker a 
Gentleman, both interesting works of William Rowley, later 
the distinguished collaborator of Thomas Middleton, and Mid- 
dleton's own Mayor of Queenborough, in which is told the 
supposedly historical matters relating to the first landing of 
the Saxons on British soil, are all deserving the attention of 
the student of our English historical drama however their sub- 
jects stretch out into the domain of sheer fiction. 

A romantic spirit informs much of this material and this 
is true likewise of the kindred group that sets forth the adven- 
tures of Englishmen beyond the seas, of notorious pirates and 
other matters as strange as circumstantial. Thus The Travails 
of Three English Brothers by Day, Rowley and Wilkins is a 
hastily dramatized version of the actual experiences of the 
Shirley brothers in Italy, Russia and Persia, transferred direct 
from a contemporary pamphlet ; and A Christian Turned Turk 
by Robert Daborne is even less, and might be called a drama- 
tized penny-dreadful. On the other hand, in Fortune by Land 
and Sea, Heywood and Rowley appreciated the possibilities of a 
current story wherein a young man of broken fortune and in 
disgrace, retrieves the past by a brave and happy capture of re- 
doubtable pirates. Even more full and buoyantly smacking of 
the salt of the sea is Heywood's fine play in two parts. The 
Fair Maid of The West in which womanly faith and devotion 
triumphs most unconventionally in a drama set in Plymouth, 
at the court of the Sultan of Morocco and especially on the 
high seas between. These plays come somewhat later, in the 
early days of King James. It was in happy, off-hand dramas 
such as these, taking up as they often did the current topic of 
patriotic, curious or other interest, that Henslowe sought to 
rival in his several play-houses the learning of Jonson and the 
genius of Shakespeare. The not infrequent success of ephem- 
eral drama and fiction lies in the very circumstance that it is 
such. Which of us has not given the preference to a news- 
paper account of a contemporary scoundrel while poetry and 
serious literature lay close at hand and postponed? We may 


assume that many of these plays of our lesser drama reached 
their auditors as they can never reach the belated reader of 
to-day; for they were above all things timely, fresh and calcu- 
lated for the consumption of the moment. And, the moment 
passed, they passed w^ith it. It is a curious commentary on art 
that that which is most " up to date," as we express it, is in- 
variably the least calculated to carry beyond the present. It is 
vastly to the credit of the Elizabethan age that it was able 
so unerringly to choose between the plays of the henchmen of 
Henslowe, which it suffered to He to a large extent unpublished, 
and the permanent dramas of Shakespeare and his greater fel- 
lows which his contemporaries not only attended to applaud but 
purchased for after reading in a remarkable number of editions, 
if we take into consideration the population of the time and the 
illiteracy of the lower orders. 

We found the romantic drama rising to art in the tragedies 
of Kyd and Marlowe while comedy flourished at court with 
Lyly to find in Greene all too chary a popular exponent. We 
have traced, too, Shakespeare's earlier career as a writer of 
comedies and turn now to other developments of the romantic 
spirit as well as to Shakespeare's fellows in that lighter art, 
before proceeding to consider Shakespeare's own later career. 
It will be recalled that one of the earliest manifestations in the 
drama of that craving of human nature for the novel and the 
strange that we denominate the romantic, we found in a variety 
of play which we called the heroical drama. Plays of this type 
developed directly out of the moralities and were closely akin 
to the prose and metrical romances that formed so staple an 
article of the literary diet of our mediaeval forefathers. To 
their general kind ^Vlarlowe contributed the conqueror play 
represented by Tamburlaine, Greene his dramatization of 
Orlando Furioso and the writers of chronicle plays their dramas 
of Merlin, Arthur and other heroes of the Round Table. 
Even more strictly of the type are such productions as Charle- 
magne, an anonymous work of about 1590 which Mr. Bullen 
printed under the title of The Distracted Emperor, The Thra- 
cian fVonder (of dubious authorship and doubtless first acted 
about 1598), and The Dumb Knight, as late as 1607 or 1608, 
the work of two very young writers, Machin and Markham, 
who were following older example as the uninspired young are 
apt to do. All of these plays deal in knightly prowess, heroic 
combat, remarkable adventure, and they occasionally add the 


element of magic, although this last led to the differentiation 
of another group. They must have enjoyed an unusual vogue, 
with the citizens of London in particular, as the titles of many 
now no longer extant — Dick IVhittington, The Life of Sir 
Thomas Gresham with the Founding of the Royal Exchange 
for example — would go to prove; and they reached the height 
of their absurdity in Heywood's Four Prentices of London 
which must have been acted not later than 1594. In this 
preposterous performance (wherein Hey^wood is clearly writing 
down to his auditors), we hear how the good old Earl of Bul- 
loigne, suffering from poverty, apprenticed his four sons to 
four honourable trades in London, how they and their sister 
as well — the last clad as the inevitable page — went forth 
into the world to carve out each his own fortune; how each 
won a kingly crown and their sister a royal husband, and all 
were reunited at the siege of Jerusalem. Such material begot 
its own antidote in satire. Beaumont's famous Knight of the 
Burning Pestle is a take-off on the whole class of heroical 
romances and on Heywood's play in particular. It was the 
work of a clever young literary man of whom we shall hear 
considerably more in this volume and appears to have been 
somewhat belated in point of time, as it was not printed until 
16 1 3. The Knight of the Burning Pestle is an apprentice lad 
who is literally thrust upon the stage and into the midst of the 
play by his master and mistress to act a burlesque part in ac- 
companiment to other parody of the heroical drama. We are 
not surprised to learn that the city that so acclaimed The Four 
Prentices should not have appreciated the joke. The drama 
has seldom been reformed by means of parody and it was re- 
served to more cultivated and courtly auditors of the next reign 
to appreciate to the full this remarkably clever production that 
resembled in spirit more than it borrowed in kind of Cervantes' 
immortal Don Quixote. 

However, romantic comedy less outrageously absurd than 
The Four Prentices and its like was not wanting among the 
playwrights contemporary with the young manhood of Shake- 
speare. But with them for the most part it is found as a com- 
ponent element in plays made up of other material as well. 
Thus the charming episode of Margaret and Lacy in Greene's 
Friar Bacon is subsidiary to the element of magic for which 
the comedy exists, as the graver royal temptation of Lady Salis- 
bury in Edward III and the courtship of Cordelia by " the 


Gallian Prince " in King Leir, each is but an episode in a 
chronicle play. So, too, The Weakest Goeth to the Wall is a 
romantic comedy of Italian origin told history-wise and A 
Knack to Know an Honest Man, also of unknown authorship, 
with its duels, its banishments, and tests of loyalty in friendship 
and love, comes nearer to material of Shakespeare, naive though 
its spirit, than many a more ambitious performance. 

Among Shakespeare's contemporaries in whom the romantic 
note in comedy ruled however the stridency of other tones, the 
result of forced work and necessity, came to mar it, is Thomas 
Dekker. There Is an unaffected tenderness about certain of 
his work that is as engaging as it is rare. Among early com- 
edies of Dekker none is so pervaded with poetry as Old For- 
tunatus, 1599, in which is told the old tale of folk-lore of the 
beggar who offered by Fortune his choice of ** wisdom, strength, 
health, beauty, long life and riches," chose the last and, despite 
the addition of the wishing cap to his wealth, dies unhappy. All 
this, with the continuance of the story of the sons of Fortunatus, 
the whole set in an allegorical contention of Vice with Virtue, 
is admirably poetic. No subsequent work of Dekker's is so 
completely romantic in spirit until we reach, late in his career, 
The Suns Darling, "a moral masque," 1623, in the composi- 
tions, perhaps revision, of which Dekker appears to have been 
assisted by John Ford. Dekker's intervening work in the 
chronicle play has already been indicated. His domestic dramas 
and his touch with Jonson fall more logically within the next 
chapter. Dekker's Fortunatus is only one of a considerable 
group of Elizabethan romantic dramas that employ for the stage 
the delightful material of folk and fairy lore. To this group 
belong Greene's Friar Bacon and even Marlowe's Faustus which 
it emulated, as we have seen, and A Midsummer Night's 
Dream, however different its immediate sources. A curious 
old play by Anthony Munday, half chronicle half fairy tale, 
but depending mainly on unexpected and almost farcical situa- 
tions, is John a Kent and John a Cumber, 1595, in which two 
wizards strive in their art each to outdo the other much as 
Friar Bacon strove to overcome his German rival Vandermast. 
The Merry Devil of Edmonton, 1604, of unknown authorship, 
links on to the Faustus story in which the supernatural accom- 
plishes little more than the straightening out of the crooked 
course of two interesting young lovers. As to fairies^ in coni- 
edy, however they may have obtruded before his time in Lyly's 


^Maid's Metamorphosis for example, or in Greene's Scottish 
History of James IV, where we meet Oberon for the first 
time, subsequent to A Midsummer Night's Dream all fairies 
wear the livery of Shakespeare. 

This is only one example of the extraordinary and immediate 
influence which Shakespeare exerted on the drama of his time ; 
for, however his followers might fail to imitate the simple 
romanticism of his earlier comedy, the influence of his refine- 
ment of tone and sentiment and of his ideal treatment of char- 
acter appears in many contemporary plays. John Day, whose 
vivacious comedies were printed in the reign of King James, is 
more Lylyan and Jonsonian than Shakespearean. His two 
memorable plays (if we except the delightful Parliament of 
Bees which is satire in dialogue and inconceivable acted) are 
Law Tricks and Humour Out of Breath. But even Jonson 
in a first effort. The Case is Altered, 1598, fell momentarily 
under Shakespeare's spell. This comedy Jonson never acknowl- 
edged as his; and, Plautine though the source of the intrigue, 
Jonson never approached nearer to romantic art than in the 
character of Rachel, the fair and virtuous beggar maiden of 
this play: indeed it might almost be said that Rachel is Jonson's 
only vital female figure. 

With the completion of the trilogy of Henry IF and Henry 
V, Shakespeare returned to romantic comedy to which he ad- 
hered in some half dozen plays, from Much Ado About Noth- 
ing to Measure for Measure, which followed in quick succes- 
sion within the last half dozen years of Elizabeth's reign. 
There are no more perfect comedies of light and joyous type 
than Much Ado, As You Like It and Twelfth Night, all of 
them referable in theme as in atmosphere to the well-born, 
social life of Italy which was recognised, and justly, by the 
Elizabethans, as marking the very beau ideal of modern cul- 
tivated living. The atmosphere of youth hovers in a golden 
haze about these charming scenes and nothing is so serious as 
to impair, save for momentary pathos, the joy of life that 
sparkles in their exquisitely conceived personages and In the 
delightful poetry that clothes them. Moreover, the romantic 
people, Duke Orsino, Viola, Benedick and Beatrice, Orlando 
and his Rosalind — only to name which Is to remember fas- 
cinating friends of Intimate acquaintance — exist always, in 
Shakespeare as In the world itself, In a milieu of the practical, 
the commonplace, the stupid and the absurd, all of which the 


wizard transmutes with a wave of his wand into enduring art, 
yet never once trespasses beyond what is human and probable 
in an orderly world viewed with the sanity of genius. The 
amazing thing about Shakespeare is this obvious sanity of his. 
Once accept his guidance and you think naturally in his way. 
He transforms reality less into a something rich and strange 
than he shows you a beauty in reality which you had never 
seen before. With a Browning or a Meredith we wonder and 
admire the keenness, the originality, the intellectual subtlety 
that can so invent and distinguish, as we yield to the wayward 
guidance of a Shelley or Keats who refines this world in his 
imagination into a dream wherein are discovered strange beau- 
ties that the earth knows not. In the comedies of Shakespeare 
our thought is always: " How delightful it is to be out in 
the sunshine of life thus to see things as they are"; for even 
the shy things of the human forest, that come not forth for him 
who too curiously seeks them, are Shakespeare's at the beck of 
his hand. 

In All's Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cres- 
sida in particular, the tone is deeper, the colour darker than in 
the lightsome comedies which criticism agrees preceded them. 
It is customary to refer this minor key to some circumstance in 
Shakespeare's experience that saddened him, in Troilus actually 
jaundiced him, to look upon life for the nonce with the eyes 
of a pessimist. This is not the place in which to take up the 
eternal question of the biographical significance of the famous 
Sonnets which have been associated with these more sombre 
comedies and with the tragedies that came immediately after. 
Before, however, we assume lightly that the mood of the man 
was reflected thus infallibly in his works, we must remember 
that the whole art of stagecraft is dependent upon " a notable 
feigning," as Sidney calls poetry, wherein the very first condi- 
tion is the suppression of the author's personality. Has no 
composer ever written a capriccio and a requiem within the 
same fortnight? And is there anything more amazing in 
Shakespeare's having written a lively and a serious comedy in 
reasonably close juxtaposition than In the versatility that he 
constantly displays in the personages and episodes of a single 
play?^ But other questions concern these plays. An unequal 
style is traceable in All's Well, pointing to the possibility of an 
earlier play revised in a later rewriting. Some have suggested 
this as the Love's Labour's Won of the list of Meres in 1598, 


a title which the accomplishment of Helena's difficult task, 
however dubious the method of compassing it, may perhaps 
justify. The repellent grossness of detail in certain scenes of 
Measure for Measure the poet found in his originals, Cinthio's 
novel and Whetstone's English versions. These the fidelity of 
his art demanded that he retain. But the unassailable chastity 
of Isabella and the pathetic Mariana, betrothed of Angelo, by 
means of whom the brutal original story is converted into a 
satisfying conclusion, these things are due to the ingenuity and 
the finer ethical instinct of Shakespeare. Troilus and Cressida 
offers one of the most difficult questions within the range of the 
plays. The scene is ostensibly classical, but the old Greek 
heroes, Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses and the rest, are distorted to 
something monstrous. The story is a romantic tale of lovers, 
but their passion is impure and Cressida, unlike any other 
prominent female figure of Shakespeare's (if we except the in- 
efFable daughters of Lear), is fickle and wanton. This play 
has been called Shakespeare's drama of disenchantment and its 
component elements make it doubtful whether it really belongs 
to the comic or to the tragic category. Yet Troilus is among 
the most unmistakably Shakespearean of the plays and abounds 
in passages of depth, wit and wisdom, clothed again and again 
in glittering eloquence and splendid poetry. The idea that 
Troilus was conceived as a Titanic satire on classical learning 
seems preposterous in view of the author's employment of well 
known mediaeval material; and the alleged part of his play in 
the dramatic squabbles of the moment, as we shall see, may at 
least be questioned. 

Leaving aside Troilus and Cressida, it has been said that 
Shakespeare's comedies, as contrasted with the tragedies, show 
a greater interest in incident than in character as such. Where 
for example in tragedy the play centres about a single person- 
age, Hamlet, Lear or Othello, at most about two, as about 
Macbeth and his Lady or about Antony and Cleopatra,^ in the 
comedies the interest is in a group, the gentle folk fleeting the 
time carelessly in the Forest of Arden, the involutions of the 
love affairs of Orsino, Viola and the Lady Olivia, or the effects 
of the Duke's test of absence in Measure for Measure. Yet 
such is always the strength of Shakespeare's touch with reality 
that not even in the tragedies do his figures more truly live. 
Again, Shakespeare has been praised for his remarkable realisa- 
tion of foreign scene and for the success with which he depicts 


the Italian and other foreigner in his national traits. Indeed 
the first has so impressed certain of his foreign critics that they 
have credited him with journeys to Venice, to Elsinore and 
elsewhere, notebook in hand, wherein to transcribe the impres- 
sions of " local colour " that he subsequently transferred to his 
plays. Such is the method of pedantry, not that of genius. 
Though, after all, the local colour of Shakespeare has been 
much exaggerated and most of the touches so praised by his 
commentators are the result of that honest employment of his 
material, ultimately Italian or other, in which faithfulness and 
an equal fidelity to the portrayal of the familiar things around 
him Shakespeare leads all dramatists. As to Shakespeare's per- 
sonages in comedy, it seems altogether probable that they are all 
contemporaneous English men and women, practising the graces, 
the mannerisms or the absurdities that were prevalent in the 
England of his own day. And it is unlikely, save in a few 
definite cases, such as Othello the Moor or Shylock the Jew, 
that Shakespeare thought very definitely of those race differ- 
ences and diversities of nationality to which it is easy, after all, 
to attach an undue importance. The foreigner as a subject for 
comedy, if not for ridicule, Shakespeare used after the manner 
of the time. Already in Love's Labour s Lost we meet with 
Don Armado, the fantastical Spaniard, in the second part of 
Henry IV, with the Welsh, Scotch and Irish captains, the ad- 
mirable Fluellen first among them, while the broken French of 
Henry V and the gibberish of Dr. Caius, in The Merry Wives, 
may have amused a class whose lineal descendants go numer- 
ously to the theatres of the present day to applaud similar 
" humour." The period from 1593 to 1603 from the death of 
Marlowe to the close of Elizabeth's reign, is par excellence that 
of Shakespeare. Therein were contained not only the comedies 
and histories of which we have heard in this chapter, but like- 
wise the tragedies of Romes and Juliet, Julius Casar and 
Hamlet, beyond which Shakespeare attained many varied and 
tragic notes, but few deeper. Chronicle history, save for the 
obituary plays of a year or two after, was dead with the death 
of Queen Elizabeth. Further to proceed in the story of 
romantic comedy, would bring us into touch with Chapman, 
Marston, Middleton and Fletcher, each distinctive for new 
departures in the drama, for the most part to come. This 
much, however, may be said: Chapman appears to have been 
not uninfluenced by Shakespearean comedy in The Gentleman 


Usher and Monsieur D'Olive, ambitious and romantic efforts 
at romantic comedy of a graver type and both in print by 1606. 
Chapman's metier hitherto had been Terentian comedy of in- 
trigue. These later comedies are of higher type and the for- 
mer, at least, is by no means unworthy either of its author or 
their example. Marston, too, with all his vaunted originality, 
again and again essays the Shakespearean gait, as his serious 
and able Malcontent, in which the hero is affected with a 
melancholy not unlike Hamlet's, plays a role not dissimilar to 
the disguised Duke of Vienna in Measure for Measure. The 
romantic note in Middleton came later by way of his col- 
laborator, William Rowley, not by way of Shakespeare; but 
that of Fletcher, however resonant of Shakespeare in some of 
the earlier plays, soon became a note as different as it was 
insistent and prevailing among Fletcher's own compeers. These 
matters we shall postpone for the nonce, as things of closer 
sequence claim the next chapter. 


Lines of classification and division in a subject so complex as 
the drama can never be more than provisional, helpful in 
making clear what would otherwise remain in confusion. Ob- 
viously life may be seen through a pane of clear glass as well 
as in the dilation of romance or scrutinised with the belittling 
lenses of satire. In neither of the latter cases is the world, 
reproduced from such a point of view, in any wise accurately 
represented, though each method of art in its success again and 
again substitutes the higher truth for a mere category of real- 
istic facts. The literature of fact is the oldest, imagination and 
amplification came after. So, too, in the modern drama, the 
earliest amplification of the facts of bible story added material 
within the observation of the playwright's every day experience 
whereby Cain became a boorish yokel, the wife of Noah a 
village scold and Joseph an awkward craftsman diffident before 
strangers and superiors. There is, in a word, no stronger 
strain in our drama than this strain of simple realism, however 
affectation or passing fashion may have overlaid it at times or 
genius have transformed it. It was this strain that made the 
success of John He}^-ood and our two earliest English com- 
edies, however foreign suggestion may have intervened. In- 
deed It may be doubted whether, with all its poetry, its flights 
of imagination and its transmutations of things mundane into 
things rich and strange, there is a more characteristic trait of 
Elizabethan drama than Its contemporaneousness, the quality 
by which all things are translated into immediate terms, com- 
prehensible to the average man and therefore universal in ap- 
peal. Shakespeare possessed this quality; he possessed likewise, 
as we know, much more. But many a contemporar}' of Shake- 
speare succeeded In his time because of this quality alone. It is 
with the drama of every day life during the lifetime of Shake- 
speare that we are concerned In this chapter; less with this 
drama as a feature that enters Into plays as one component 



among many, than with that very definite group of Elizabethan 
dramas in which the realism of every day life is the ruling 

And first a word as to what went before. Gammer Gurton's 
Needle was only an amplification into a complete drama of the 
interlude and the comedy scenes which the moralities, and even 
the miracle plays, had long popularised. So Gammer Gurton 
became the mother of a large progeny in which types, such as 
the thick-witted, blundering husband, the clever shrewish wife 
none too honest, the mischief-making Diccon of Bedlam, are 
repeated again and again. For example in Tom Tyler and his 
Wife that stupid victim of his wife's neglect and unreasonable 
temper regains a momentary mastery by following the advice 
of a friend and giving his spouse a sound beating; but pitying 
her miserable condition, he confides the source of his sudden 
mastery to his immediate loss of it and total undoing. In sev- 
eral plays, Like Will to Like, the underplot of Edward's Damon 
and Pithias and Grim the Collier of Croydon, a personage of 
this name figures who is as diverting and homely as he is 
thoroughly English. Such plays were, some of them, on the 
stage before the birth of Shakespeare and their material remained 
the essential material of comedy and a part, according to im- 
memorial usage, of many in other respects devoted to more lofty 
subjects. In the group of Shakespeare's immediate predecessors, 
Kyd and Marlowe were always more or less lofty and tragic; 
the rest all employed comedy scenes of common life. But chief 
among them was Greene who, had he but known it, might have 
stood foremost in his age for the simple truth of his dramatic 
talent in scenes such as those that concern the love affairs of 
Margaret, the fair maid of Fressingfield, and her noble suitors 
and the delightfully fresh rendering of a Robin Hood theme in 
George a Green and the jolly shoemakers of Bradford. Shake- 
speare might well have had Greene for his example, had he 
needed it, in these scenes drawn from the observation of English 
daily life ; and it was the same thing that Shakespeare was doing 
(howsoever he transcended the lighter art of Greene) in The 
Merry Wives of Windsor and in the comedy scenes interspersed 
throughout the chronicle plays. Among early plays of the type 
the authorship of which remains doubtful, is Wily Beguiled, 
certainly on the stage as early as 1595. There occur early types 
of several well known Elizabethan personages. Gripe the usurer, 
Churms the confidential rascally lawyer, Fortunatus the hhiii 


soldier and a capital, loquacious nurse who seems more like a 
possible suggestion for the immortal Nurse of Juliet than an 
inferior borrower of her humour. 

But if we would know the little that can be known of the 
contemporaries of Shakespeare who wrote for the lesser theatres 
this drama of every day life, we must make the acquaintance of 
Philip Henslowe, pawnbroker, moneyed man and exploiter of 
plays and players. What we know of Henslowe depends, in the 
main, on the fortunate survival of one book, popularly known as 
Hensloiue's Diary.^ This is really a manuscript book, employed 
by Henslowe from 1591 to 1609 in which to note all manner 
of accounts, memoranda, private and domestic, as well as those 
connected with his various ventures of the felling of trees, the 
lending of money and the fitting out and performance of plays. 
These last entries assume different forms. One series gives us 
the name of the play, the date of acting and Henslowe's share 
in the takings in of that day; another concerns advances and 
payments to playwrights and property men ; a third records dis- 
bursements by Henslowe on behalf of the several companies in 
which he was interested. Incidentally a great many signatures 
of poets and others conversant with the stage are preserved, 
witnessing agreements, acknowledgments of payments or promises 
of plays. Finally, outside of the Diary, but preserved with it 
among the Alleyn papers at Dulwlch College, are certain lists 
of properties once Henslowe's, letters and other documents, all 
of interest to the history of the stage, concerning half a dozen 
companies and almost as many playhouses beside the mention of 
scores of plays. Henslowe was a shrewd, illiterate man of busi- 
ness who grew rich by his foresight in building playhouses where 
they were wanted and in furnishing them, at the least expense 
to himself, with the kind and number of plays that met with the 
popular demand. An alliance by marriage with the famous 
actor Edward Alleyn, creator of the chief roles of Marlowe's 
tragedies, gave Henslowe a standing in the theatrical world that 
enabled him to dictate terms to the poets. Henslowe does not 
appear to have been more avaricious than many of those who 
have exploited the drama since his time and there is nothing to 
show that his appreciation of the theatrical art was much 
below theirs. Without his book we should lose a valuable 
chapter in the history of the popular stage. 

1 See the excellent edition by W. W. Greg, 1904-08, 3 vols. 


From the Diary, then, we learn that Henslowe managed two 
or three theatres simultaneously and that he employed both 
actors and playwrights at his own terms. Of the latter he had 
at times no less than ten or a dozen on his books, and he appears 
to have averaged something like a new play every two weeks. 
Although Henslowe's relations with his men were close, it 
cannot be shown that he was altogether unfriendly to the shift- 
less bohemian small poets to whom he advanced money on 
promises, often badly kept, or bailed out of that " consistory of 
unthrifts," the debtors' prison. His books disclose that he oc- 
casionally bestowed small gratuities on the authors of unusually 
successful plays or paid for a supper at the Mermaid on some 
business occasion. But for the most part he so contrived to dole 
out payment that he kept his people securely in his grasp. In 
the palmy days of Henslowe's traflfic with the stage " an acting " 
play commanded from six to eight pounds sterling, and this was 
often divided among three or four authors. In the reign of 
James the price of plays rose with other things, and three years 
before, 1613, Robert Daborne, a very second rate dramatist, 
received twenty pounds and declared that he could have had as 
much as twenty-five. How the playwrights of the day contrived 
to live would remain a complete mystery, even with William 
Rowley producing fifty-five plays in twenty years or Heywood 
with his two hundred and twenty in twice that period, did we 
not recall the contemporary system of patronage and the circum- 
stance that some of the play^vrights were also actors on regular 
wages or sharers in the playhouses. For example, take the case 
of Michael Drayton, next to Spenser the most popular general 
poet of his day. For a period of a little more than three years, 
Drayton gave his attention to the writing of plays, mostly in 
collaboration with others in the employ of Henslowe. He was 
concerned in twenty-four plays during that period and collabo- 
rated with eight other writers. In his best year he received forty 
pounds for play-writing. But Drayton had noble patrons, had 
been a tutor and must have received some income from the 
many editions of his poems. It is not remarkable that only one 
or two of the plays, in which he had a hand, are extant and ca- 
pable of identification. Moreover, Drayton covered up the tracks 
of his sojourn in captivity to Henslowe, ashamed of that to 
which his hand had been subdued. Many others were not so 

In no respect, however, is Henslowe's Diary more interesting 


than in the contrast which it offers to what we may justly infer 
to have been the conditions governing the company of Shake- 
speare. Indubitably, Shakespeare's fellows no less than Hens- 
lowe, were in the theatrical business for what they could make 
out of it; and both succeeded, Shakespeare and Burbage as well 
as Henslowe and Alleyn, dying rich, according to the standards 
of their time and station. But Henslowe's success was based 
on shrewd dealing with his poets and on a willingness to follow 
wavering popular taste. Shakespeare created and guided the 
taste of the public in the very act of reaching its favour as it 
had never been reached before. From a table of court per- 
formances between 1594 and 1603 - it has been estimated that 
the Lord Chamberlain's company of players (that is Shake- 
speare's) performed twice as many plays at court as its four 
competitors together. The success of the latter in the popular 
playhouses may have been less disproportionate, but the fact re- 
mains. In short, the romantic dramas of Dekker, Heywood, 
Rowley and others among Henslowe's writers wanted the finish 
and perfection that Shakespeare could give them. Their 
chronicle plays were rude and straggling in comparison to his, 
nor did any other dramatist so specialise in English history. In 
the simple comedy of every day life and in serious domestic 
drama alone, whether tragedy or less, did the authors of Hen- 
slowe's eclectic, haphazard, experimental school succeed in rival- 
ling the writers of the Chamberlain's company and in giving to 
the London tradesman a drama based on a faithful rendering 
of the life of his own class. 

If we look at this citizens' drama, as some have called it, we 
find it falling naturally into several classes as action prevails or 
passion. There is rural life and London life, the latter by far 
the more popular, dependent as it was on local colour and typical 
allusion, the success of which lay in its familiarity to the auditor; 
and within the limits of each there were farce, intrigue, comedy, 
satire and tragedy, all centring in domestic scene and realistic 
in presentation. The dramas of Greene, that is those of the 
domestic type, already mentioned, turn upon the simpler emo- 
tions, love, generosity, wifely devotion and the like, and their 
scene is, for the most part, rural or at least not urban. An 
exceedingly interesting comedy of the type is Henry Porter's 
Two Angry Women of Abington, on the stage by 1598 and 

2 See F. G. Fleay, Chronicle History of the Stage, p. 125. 


exceedingly popular. The plot turns on a quarrel between two 
" curst wives " and the consequent embroilment of their families. 
The action depends as much on situation as on vivacious dialogue 
and humorously drawn personages. Porter is a typical poet of 
Henslowe's mart. We hear of him twenty-five times in the 
Diary and in connection with five plays, all, save this one, lost ; 
and we know no more. But in this, his repute in the comic 
drama is sufficiently established ; for The Two Angry Women 
is verily " full " in Charles Lamb's phrase, " of business, humour 
and merry malice." Another comedy of rural English life, The 
Merry Devil of Edmonton, i6oo, has been doubtfully ascribed 
to Drayton. Here we are introduced, at the outset somewhat 
seriously, to the English Faustus, Peter Fabel ; but the current 
of interest changes to a very pretty love-tale and a group of 
" humourists " whose wanderings and mistakes through Enfeld 
Chase by night parallel a similar concluding scene of The Two 
Angry fVomen. It is interesting here to note a third comedy 
of English village or country life, which ends, as these, in a 
night scene in a park and agrees with them in point of date. 
It is usual to remember The Merry Wives of Windsor, as we 
have above, for its connection with the chronicle plays through 
Falstaff. But The Merry Wives is conspicuous among the 
comedies of Shakespeare as the only one in which he lays his 
scene frankly in England, an experiment never repeated. Per- 
haps the romantic spirit that achieved remoteness In time by the 
former age and setting of the historical plays needed remoteness 
of place in comedy to preserve it from that which was too fa- 
miliar. Yet if we are seeking Shakespeare's contribution tothe 
drama of every day life, we may find it not alone in the vivacious 
scenes and admirable personages of The Merry Wives of Wind- 
sor, but in the delightful comedy that follows Falstaff and holds 
over into Henry V. who in his palmy days, as Prince Hal at 
least, lived not afar off in the atmosphere of an heroic Agin- 
court, but in the streets and taverns of Elizabeth's own Eng- 
land. Shakespeare has brought us up to London from Windsor 
and the country-side. Before we sojourn there with some of 
his lesser fellows, we may mention an experiment of Ben Jon- 
son's that agrees here In date and kind. A Tale of a Tub, 
which may be assigned to the neighbourhood of 1600 rather than 
later, is a rustic comedy of English village life, in which, with 
characteristic accuracy, the poet endeavours to heighten the 


effect by the use of dialect. This comedy of Jonson is unworthy 
his genius which lay elsewhere as we shall see. 

If our subject were Elizabethan prose instead of Elizabethan 
drama, we should recognise in Thomas Dekker and Thomas 
Heywood the successors of Greene in that ready writing up of 
things of contemporary interest, that journalistic instinct that 
turns anything into copy, which is the distinguishing characteris- 
tic of the group of writers known as the pamphleteers. It was 
precisely these qualities that made Dekker and Hey^\'Ood most 
successful in domestic drama and enabled them to add a life- 
likeness to the scenes of many a drama otherwise below the level 
of some of their more ambitious contemporaries. Thomas 
Dekker was born somewhere between 1567 and 1570, in Lon- 
don. The form of the name suggests a Dutch extraction, which 
a knowledge of that language in some of the plays and a power 
of minute relation as to common things which we associate with 
Dutch art, go far to confirm. Dekker is first mentioned by 
Henslowe in 1598; some have thought that his career as a play- 
wright began a few years earlier. He continues traceable in- 
termittently well into the thirties, and it is not certain when 
he died. Dekker was a born unthrift, constantly the victim of 
poverty and often in the debtor's jail. He appears to have 
turned his hand to many varieties of writing, following closely 
the example of Greene in pamphlets realistic, moral, satirical 
or religious and mending, changing, adapting and rewritmg 
plays, his own and other men's, for Henslowe year after year. 
Dekker is a notorious example of the Elizabethan practice of 
collaboration in play-writing. In one of the earliest plays with 
which his name is associated, Patient Grissil, 1598, he had, as 
coadjutors, Chettle and Haughton. This comedy is a dramatic 
version of the favourite mediaeval story of the much enduring 
wife, and Is memorable for several very beautiful songs which 
common assent has given to the authorship of Dekker. Dekker's 
lyrical gift, slender though its runnel of song, is as exquisite and 
tuneful as that of any poet of his time. Further expression of 
it may be found in Old Fortunatus, already described in the 
last chapter for its romantic and poetic spirit. The Shoemakers' 
Holiday, on the stage by 1599, is Dekker's typical contribution 
to domestic comedy and here we have the daily life of the small 
trades-folk of London done to perfection ; their humours, their 
pleasures, ambitions and hearty good fellowship. The person- 


ages of this delightful comedy are as distinctly drawn and differ- 
entiated as the story is naturally unfolded. Simon Eyre, the 
bluff and hearty master-shoemaker, with his crew of jolly ap- 
prentices about him, must have been an admirable character in 
the hands of a great comedian such as Kempe or Armin ; and 
the circumstance that Dekker had his plot from a well known 
novel, as we should call it, of the day. The Gentle Craft, by 
Thomas Delony, enhanced its popularity. Much of the genial 
humour and kindly spirit, Dekker had from his original. But 
he lightened all, gave a touch of the romantic to the story of 
" Hans," who became a shoemaker because of love, a touch of 
pathos to the underplot of the faithful lovers, Ralph and Jane, 
and raised the whole production to a higher literary and artistic 

In Patient Grissil we have a favourable specimen of one of 
the most important groups of the domestic drama, the story of 
the faithful wife. The underplot of The Shoemakers' Holiday 
has just been noted as concerned with a not dissimilar theme. 
The ideals of Elizabethan days were, of course, not ours, and 
it was not only in Puritan circles that talk was at times of " the 
weaker vessel " or that the dominion of man was upheld by 
men and women alike and commended. It is a mistake to con- 
fuse the status of Elizabethan women with that which came 
to obtain in the degenerate days of gallantry when the Merry 
Monarch thrust English manners down with English morals to 
a level with those of the brothel and the tavern. There is a 
charm about the free and natural intercourse of the young people 
in the comedies of Shakespeare, Greene and Dekker, which we 
lose sensibly in the next generation when manners turned to- 
wards sophistication. There is a candour, a give and take in 
dialogue, a recognition of woman and a delight in her power 
and charm, which comported none the less with a recognition 
that after all she is not the stronger animal. Wherefore the 
many dramatic pictures of that favourite of the day, the faithful, 
the much enduring wife, often contrasted, not only with the 
obvious foil of her own sex, but with that incorrigible rascal, the 
favourite of fiction and of life, the prodigal son. To be sure, 
the scene of these dramas is by no means confined to England 
nor their portrayal to the conditions of any one age. Shake- 
speare's Hermione, devoted and forgiving beyond the range of 
our present ideals, and his Mariana at the moated grange are 
both of the type of patient Griselda, and so, too, is innocent 


and confiding Desdemona. But it is needless for us here to 
stray into the lofty regions of romantic tragedy or even where a 
satirical outlook has transformed our ideals from the simpler 
representations of the drama of every day life. Thus in How 
a Man May Choose a Good Wife from a Bad, The Fair Maid 
of Bristow, in The London Prodigal and in Marston's Dutch 
Courtesan, all of them between 1602 and 1605, we have prac- 
tically the same group of personages: the faithful wife, the 
neglectful, spendthrift husband, the alluring, faithless and cruel 
courtesan, with the emphasis, as the case may be, on the one or 
the other. Marston's is by all odds the best play, indeed it rises 
above its species for its style, its variety and its substitution of 
an artistic for a moral contrast. Heart and soul of the domestic 
type, on the other hand, is the homely, circumstantial drama en- 
titled The Miseries of Enforced Marriage in which George 
Wilkins staged, in 1605, the actual details of the unhappy mar- 
ried life of one Calverley. Wilkins, we now know, was per- 
sonally acquainted with Shakespeare and was concerned in some 
way, not altogether clear, with Pericles. As to Calverley, his 
prodigal life soon after led to crime, and his murder of his wife 
and children was made into a play, The Yorkshire Tragedy, 
though not by Wilkins, soon after. Here, as so often, we have 
the old drama performing a function of the newspaper in dis- 
seminating knowledge of some recent event. The drama of our 
English-speaking lower playhouses has never lost this practice, 
though the moving picture lends itself more readily to this obvi- 
ious mode of exploiting topics of current interest. Still another 
play of this same group is Heywood's Wise Woman of Hogs- 
don, not printed until 1638, but unmistakably of far earlier 
acting. Here the familiar story is varied, the spendthrift hus- 
band becomes a recreant lover and prodigal, seeking to recoup 
his fallen fortunes in a wealthier match. " The faithful wife " 
is here a resourceful country maiden who follows her betrothed 
up to London and succeeds, with some help from the " wise 
woman," not only in winning him back but in marrying her 
wealthy, and in this case virtuous, rival to a worthier suitor. 
Here verily is the stuff of ordinary every day life, for Heywood 
relies on no art save the simple and truthful presentation of his 


Thomas Heywood was born about 1575 in Lincolnshire and 
became a student at Cambridge and later a fellow of Peterhouse. 
We meet with him as early as 1596, in Henslowe's Diary, in a 


covenant " not to play anywhere in public about London [for 
two years] but in my house." He is traceable as an actor up 
to 1622 and continued an active pamphleteer and playwright 
until the closing of the theatres in 1642, dying some five years 
later. Indeed, Heywood is by all odds the most productive of 
our old dramatists, confessing in one place in print to having 
had " either an entire hand or at least a main finger " in two 
hundred and twenty plays. This would make an average of 
five plays a year for forty years; and Heywood was productive 
otherwise. Of his dramas only some thirty-five have been 
preserved, and he, doubtless, would have thought that number 
too many ; for Hej^wood was modest and rated his work, hastily 
done as it was and for the moment, at its true value. Indeed 
the little that we can glean as to the personal character of 
Heywood makes him out an estimable, scholarly but unbookish 
man who found in the average lives of the people about him 
abundant material for the smiles and tears, the pathos and the 
tragic emotions that make up the life of prince and beggar alike. 
Among the many cheap generalisations of this generalising age 
of ours, it is not uncommon to find remarks on what is called 
" the feudalism " of Shakespeare's age, the emergence of man 
as an individual somewhere in the later history of our fiction 
and other like things. A slight acquaintance with Heywood 
and the domestic drama might correct much of this; though, un- 
happily, anything but a superficial acquaintance w^ith the past 
is disdained by these forward generalising members of the race. 
Heywood's most important play is A Woman Killed with 
Kindness, printed in 1 607. In several respects this drama is a 
remarkable departure from the traditions of its time. The 
theme of the major plot is that of " an ingrate friend and a 
wife unchaste," a situation almost precisely paralleled in two 
other plays of Heywood, the Jane Shore story of Edward IV 
and The English Traveller. It is familiar that the code of the 
day demanded violence at such a juncture. Heywood dared 
to solve the problem in a manner novel to his time, separating 
the unhappy wife from the husband whom she had wronged and 
from their children, and suffering even the seducer to go the 
victim of his own remorse. Not only does the story thus rise 
to the dignity and pathos of tragedy, but all is accomplished 
without the usual extraneous aids of bloodshed and terror. A 
Woman Killed with Kindness is constructed with a care and 
the plot developed with a skill beyond Heywood's usual power. 


Nor did he surpass this success in the interesting recurrence to 
a similar theme in The English Traveller, notwithstanding 
the creation therein of the character of young Geraldine, de- 
scribed by Lamb as " one of the truest gentlemen of Elizabethan 
drama." In this matter of character, as is his treatment of 
incident and dialogue, Heywood is so natural, so unobtrusive, 
so truly modest in his art that we cease to wonder at an effect 
so easily accomplished. It is impossible to better the words of 
Lamb as to this admirable man and dramatist. " Heywood's 
ambition seems to have been confined to the pleasure of hearing 
the players speak his lines while he lived. It does not appear 
that he contemplated the possibility of being read by after 
ages. What a slender pittance of fame was motive sufficient 
to the production of such plays! . . . Posterity is bound to 
take care that a writer loses nothing by such a noble modesty." ^ 
To the category of domestic drama belong the two slightly 
earlier plays entitled The Honest Whore, the joint work of 
Dekker and Middleton, however their scene is transferred after 
the current practice of the time to an imaginary Italy. The 
first of these two plays was on the stage about 1603, and the 
second part must have followed, as is usual in such cases, soon 
after. Here is told the story of Bellafront, who has fallen but 
who is regenerated by a sincere love and is aided in her deter- 
mination to lead an honest life by her own father, who has 
repudiated her in her evil days but now in disguise befriends 
her. There is no finer dramatic presentation of the eternal 
struggle of woman and man than this play of forbidding title, 
and it would be difficult to find a cleaner one or one more 
ethically sound. The old age was more outspoken than ours, 
but it was no less clear in its perceptions of right and wrong; 
and it may be questioned whether the gain in reticence is al- 
ways a gain in true delicacy. The story of Bellafront in both 
her unreclaimed and in her reclaimed condition is admirably 
told and the character of her father, " the merry seeming Or- 
lando Friscobaldo," with his pathos and suffering at heart, alone 
is enough to keep this fine drama unforgetable. A clever foil 
to the main story is that of Candido, the enduring husband and 
his mischievous, teasing wife, a palpable take-off on the popular 
theme of patient Griselda. Indeed, the age was far from un- 
appreciatlve of the comic possibilities of subjects such as these. 

^Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, i, 130. 


Have we not seen the repugnant dispositions of man and woman, 
the theme for the struggles of Noah and his wife, about to enter 
the ark, and one of the common topics of interludes which pre- 
cisians would have us label " made in France " ? The shrew 
is at least as old as the patient wife ; and it is not altogether cer- 
tain which Cain found for a wife in the land of Nod. A 
comedy entitled The Taming a Shrew was on the stage as early 
as the coming of the Armada, and it was this old play, still 
extant and to read, that Shakespeare made over in combination, 
with an underplot from Gascoigne's Supposes, as The Taming 
of the Shrew, about 1597. In both forms the play was an ever 
popular success and in due time was followed by a sequel, The 
Tamer Tamed, the composition of John Fletcher, wherein is 
told how Katharina dying soon, as the reformed are apt to do, 
is succeeded by the redoubtable Maria who turns the tables com- 
pletely on Petruchio and solves the question once and for all in 
a manner the cleverness of which may be commended to her 
younger militant sisters. 

We have found gravity of subject and a clear moral purpose 
characteristics of several of the plays already treated in this 
chapter. A striking group of the domestic drama Is the murder 
play, already exemplified above in its most successful example, 
Arden of Feversham, in print by 1592 and on the stage prob- 
ably before the Armada. From titles found among the ac- 
counts of the Office of the Revels, The Cruelty of a Stepmother 
and Murderous Michael, 1 578 and 1579, it has been surmised 
that the murder play was of even earlier origin, and that per- 
haps the latter play was another version of Ardent We may 
leave these earlier plays to note, in the nineties, a revival of 
interest among the plajavrights of Henslowe in tragedies of this 
type. From other sources we have reason to believe that plays 
of Henslowe's mention, such as Black Bateman, Cox of Collump- 
ton. The Stepmother s Tragedy and Page of Plymouth, were of 
the type of the domestic murder play. Chettle, Day, Dekker, 
Haughton and even Jonson are named among the authors of 
them; but all, in dramatic form, have perished. There remain 
however several tragedies beside Arden to make clear the con- 
tinuance of the type. A Warning for Fair Women, I599» 
recently shown to be by Heywood, relates the murder of one 
Master George Sanders, " consented unto by his own wife," 

4 Sec Wallace's " Table," Evolution of the Drama, p. 207. 


with her trial, confession, " godly contrition " and execution. 
Two Murders in One details the sordid murder of one Beech, 
a chandler in Thames Street. Finding the material scant, the 
author, one Yarrington, eked out the play with an alternation, 
scene by scene, with the old tale of the Babes in the Wood. 
A year or two later, saw A Yorkshire Tragedy, staging, as we 
have seen, a recent murder, and published, in 1608, as " by 
Wm. Sh.," one of the many efforts of the dishonest publishers 
of Shakespeare's day to profit by his name. Although this 
short play is exceedingly well written and imitative in places 
of Shakespeare's manner, we may feel sure that his pen was not 
concerned in it. A Yorkshire Tragedy was acted by Shake- 
speare's company and so was A Warning for Fair Women, a 
matter of wonder when we recall that these were the years of 
The Merry Wives, Much Ado and As You Like It. The age, 
be it remembered, was as robust as it was catholic, and theatrical 
success, then as now, depended not alone on the verdict of the 
judicious (as Jonson called those who appreciated his own 
plays) , but on the acclaim of the groundling whose many pence 
far outweighed the gentlemen's half crowns. It is a comfort to 
know that nothing so execrably bad as Yarrington's Two Mur- 
ders was ever acted at the Globe or at the Blackfriars. This 
was one of Henslowe's plays, and doubtless we have lost little, 
in Cartwright, the murder of a clergyman, in The Bristol 
Tragedy or in The Six Yeomen of the West, wherein one 
Cole comes to his death, like Barabas in Marlowe's Jew of 
Malta, in a boiling cauldron. 

In The Yorkshire Tragedy we have apparently the last of the 
murder plays which had flourished by this time some twenty 
years beside the tragedy of revenge and other serious drama 
that partook more or less fully of the romantic spirit. There 
were later revivals of the plays of the type, such as The Witch 
of Edmonton, 1 62 1, by Dekker, Ford and Rowley. Into this 
interesting drama of every day life a new element enters, that 
of the supernatural, for its subject, like that of The Lancashire 
Witches, 1633, deals with witchcraft, that dangerous outcrop- 
ping of the primitive superstitions that cost so many innocent 
subjects of King James and his son their lives. A homelier 
and more certain revival of the old-fashioned murder play is 
The Vow Breaker or the Fair Maid of Clifton, by one William 
Sampson, printed 1636, in which apparently we have a making 
over of the old lost play of Henslowe, The Black Bateman of 


the North It was the homeliness of the murder play, like 
several of the comedies of domestic life, that preserved them 
from that heightening of effect by means of the imagmation 
that we denominate the romantic, as it was their seriousness that 
kept out of them the levity of satire. Among the many plays 
that suffered neither of these deviations may be named 1 he 
Fair Maid of the Exchange, i6o2, with its interesting and 
novel figure, the brave cripple of Fenchurch, and Fortune by 
Land and Sea, 1607, the story of the victory of a disinherited 
youth over fortune and false friends. Heywood, with the help 
of Rowley, contrived the latter charming, natural play, and 
while The Fair Maid is not certainly his, it is after all much 
in his manner. The Hog Hath Lost his Pearl, The Honest 
Lawyer, and A Cure for a Cuckold, are all later examples of 
the recurrence of the homelier manner or more familiar scene 
of the earlier domestic drama; and all were acted within a 
year or two of Shakespeare's death. In the first a repulsive 
crime is frankly told, but allowed to lead to a reconciliation 
where the logic of the older drama would have demanded 
tragedy. In A Cure recurs the theme of a demand by a 
heartless lady that her lover kill his best fnend (already em- 
ployed in The Dutch Courtesan and The Fair Maid of Bris- 
tol) ; whilst in The Honest Lawyer by a certain b.b. we 
return to country manners in the town of Bedford, despite a 
repetition of several well known comedy figures, the usurer the 
jealous husband and the faithful wife, once more among them. 
The gross titles of the first and third of the plays just men- 
tioned, each of them taken from the underp ot, denote the 
deteriorating taste of the hour of which we shall have more to 

hear in later chapters. .,.11 jr^^ 

Before we leave the domestic drama, with its homely Eng- 
lish scene and its direct methods, we may look forward to the hn- 
est, later specimen of its type, A Fair Quarrel by Middleton and 
William Rowley, printed in 1617. The subject turns on an 
insult to the fair name of his mother, offered a young man, 
Captain Ager, at the hands of his own Colonel. A challenge, 
after the custom of the age, is the immediate and mevitable 
result. But Lady Ager, fearing for the life of her son, who has 
but recently returned to her, to frustrate the meeting, msinuates 
that perhaps the Colonel's words are not mere slander. 1 he 
meeting takes place none the less; but now the young and 


honourable Captain, feeling that he no longer has cause for a 
quarrel, refuses, to the disgust of his seconds, to fight. At last 
the Colonel calls him a coward, and thanking God that he 
now has a true cause, the Captain fights and desperately wounds 
his antagonist. In the upshot the Colonel recovers, retracts his 
calumny and the virtuous Lady Ager is forgiven by her son for 
her desperate ruse to save him. A Fair Quarrel is one of the 
great Elizabethan plays and unequalled in the two great scenes, 
that of Lady Ager's struggle between her pride, her sense of 
honour and her terror lest she lose her beloved son, and the 
admirable scene of the duel. A Fair Quarrel, however, like A 
Woman Killed with Kindness, mixes in the underplot more or 
less extraneous elements. In Middleton and Rowley's play we 
have mere intrigue and the play, like the same two dramatist's 
master tragedy. The Changeling, becomes disappointing as a 
whole. It was in present questions such as these that the 
Elizabethan presented the problems of his time. Dare a man 
fight in a quarrel in which he knows that he fights to uphold 
a lie? Is there any conduct, save that of traditional violence, 
justifiable to an honourable man who has been wronged by 
wife and friend ? And is our charity and forgiveness never to 
extend to fallen womanhood in that most terrible of struggles 
in this world, the effort to regain lost honour? These are some 
of the questions that the Elizabethan dramatic casuists put to 
their audiences, giving them again and again, with all their 
direct speaking and occasional grossness, answers as sound, as 
charitable and as satisfying as any that we, with all our re- 
finements, have reached in our time. 

Were we to continue our search for scenes of dramatic 
realism in the drama of the age we should have to confess that, 
when all is said for outlandish romance and borrowings classic 
and other, it is this that remains the essential fibre of the writ- 
ings of the age, whether we consort with Dogberry and Verges 
in their very unltalian adventures of the watch, peer into the 
very unGreek theatrical aflFairs of the Athenians, Snug the 
Joiner and Bottom the Weaver, or hurry Danish Ophelia into 
a grave dug with English spade and mattock. Jonson, with all 
his learning of the ancients, found the warp of his drama in his 
contemporaries about him; and the happiest scenes and person- 
ages in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are those, often to 
be found in the inventive underplots which they had not from 


Spain, France or elsewhere, but found at hand in the England 
that they knew so well. With this acknowledged and filed as 
a caveat, we need not fear to proceed. ., , • .u- 

There remains one topic properly to be considered in this 
connection, and that is the dramas that have to do with the 
contemporary beliefs in the supernatural, more especially m 
the manifestations of witchcraft and demonology. 1" airy-lore 
obviously belongs elsewhere, as it was fancifully raised to a 
poetic potency by the genius of Shakespeare and there is a 
quality of the truly imaginative about that abiding human taith 
that gives to those mortals who have gone before the power to 
return and revisit the glimpses of the moon. To grasp the 
efiectiveness of the old and popular superstitions, we must con- 
ceive ourselves in a very different environment from our own. 
There was a universal belief in omens, in lucky days and in the 
powers of devils and witches. Comets were thought to fore- 
tell disaster and wise-men and wise-women were consulted con- 
cerning serious actions and weighty affairs. To bleed at the 
nose was ominous, a notion used effectively in Heywood s^^- 
ward IV and in The Duchess of Malfi. The elements fore- 
told and sympathised with the doings of men. Not only did a 
lioness whelp in the streets of Rome and sheets of rain and the 
terrors of lightning foretell the fall of Caesar, but foul weather 
accompanied the witches in Macbeth and the familiar stage 
thunder preluded many a tragic event. An excellent story is 
told, somewhere, of a provincial performance of Doctor taustus 
in which, when the players had come to the dance of the Seven 
Deadly Sins about that abandoned scholar, they looked and 
behold, in the whirl, there were eight. Now they knew the 
number of their company, all were on the boards, there could 
be no mistake, whereupon with one accord they fell on their 
knees and prayed for forgiveness and their auditors stampeded 
terrorstricken out of the room. These beliefs were not only 
the superstitions of the vulgar; the Earl of Leicester consulted 
the celebrated Dr. Dee as to an auspicious day for the crowning 
of Queen Elizabeth, and her wise councillor, Sir Francis Bacon, 
with all his philosophy, shared many of the popular notions ot 
his day. Ben Jonson, too, who attacked alchemy, dared not raise 
his voice against witchcraft, and Reginald Scott, who wrote a 
lengthy treatise on the abuses of witchcraft, hesitated to deny 
the existence either of witches or to question their supernatural 
interference in the affairs of men. With superstitions such as 


these universally prevalent, many a scene that we read now 
merely with a curious interest must have carried a conviction 
and a terror difficult for us to conceive. 

We may pass by the black magic of Faustus and the white 
magic of his English compeers, Peter Fable and Friar Bacon, 
as already treated. A sufficient illustration, too, for our pur- 
poses, of the employment of the superstitions of devil-lore and 
witchcraft in the drama may be derived from a brief considera- 
tion of several plays, involving these things and allied, as well, 
to the domestic drama from their general context and realistic 
treatment. The well known mediaeval tale of Friar Rush, in 
whom a devil is disguised and sent into the pious precincts of a 
monastery to tempt the brethren, was dramatized apparently 
as early as 1568. Far later, in 1610, Dekker brought out his 
dramatic amplification of the story in the elaborate, though 
hastily written, production, // this be not a Good Play, the 
Devil is in It. Here no less than three devils are sent to earth 
to tempt respectively the virtuous court of Naples, a supposedly 
upright merchant and a monastery, as in the original tale, and 
there is an attempt to apply the story to present times by the 
introduction of such contemporary malefactors as Ravaillac, the 
assassin of Henry IV, and Guy Fawkes. Machiavelli's 
satirical jeud'esprit. The Marriage of Belphegor, which has 
sometimes been confused with the tale of Friar Rush, also 
furnished material for Elizabethan playwrights. The earliest 
is Grim the Collier of Croydon, the major plot of which de- 
tails how a suicide, Spenser's Malbecco, pled before the in- 
fernal judges that he was driven in desperation to his death, 
because of the outrageous wickedness of his wife; and how, the 
devils doubting this, sent one of their number, Belphegor to 
earth to investigate the matter, which he did with such effect 
that he returned assured that there was no wickedness that any 
devil could teach mankind. This extraordinary story received 
a further dramatic amplification at the hands of no less a per- 
sonage than Jonson, in 1616, the year of Shakespeare's death. 
Such an opportunity for satire on the depravity of mankind was 
not to be lost by the great dramatic satirist, but with all its 
merit, The Devil is an Ass of Jonson is not to be reckoned 
among the unquestioned successes of the author. Notwith- 
standing the royal acceptance of a belief in demons and the 
possession of men and women by them, set forth conclusively in 
King James's Demonology of 1597, it cannot be said that hi§ 


age believed in devils with so simple a faith as did that of his 
predecessor. The satirical attitude of both Dckker and Jonson, 
in these two devil plays, is very different from the atmosphere 
that pervades Faustus. As we turn to witchcraft, which was 
nearer the folk, we find another attitude. " Witches and 
sorcerers within these last few years," the pious Bishop Jewel 
solemnly adjures Elizabeth, " are marvellously increased within 
this your grace's realm. These eyes have seen most evident and 
manifest marks of their wickedness;" and he begs that "the 
laws, touching such malefactors, may be put in due execution." 
This was in Shakespeare's boyhood. Shakespeare's own atti- 
tude may be variously interpreted by his retaining the burning 
of Joan of Arc for a witch in his revision of the first part of 
Henry VI and his representation of the wizard, Bolingbroke, 
and Margery Jourdain, a witch, in the second part of the same 
trilogy, or by his agnostic rejection, with the good Duke Hum- 
phrey, of the impostures of Simpcox in the same play. Much 
use of popular demonology will be found in the maunderings 
of Edgar while pretending madness in King Lear. As to the 
witches in Macbeth, they tell us less of what Shakespeare 
thought about witches than of his imaginative art that could 
transform the obscene hags of the superstition of the country- 
side, with their malicious tricks and trivial wickednesses, into 
supernatural agencies tempting the man prone to evil to the 
violation of eternal law. Shakespeare did for the witches in 
Macbeth what he had already done for the fairies in A 
Midsummer Night's Dream, translated them from folk-lore into 
the realms of poetry and the imagination. The age followed 
him as to the fairies; witches were another matter, for who 
could know, after all, that it was safe to doubt these malevolent 
ministers of evil? 

For a popular exposition of current beliefs as to witches, we 
must turn from Shakespeare to Jonson and lesser men. Jon- 
son's witch of Papplewick, in The Sad Shepherd, admirably 
presents us this picture. She is as repulsive as she is malignant ; 
she assumes the shape of various beasts and even of persons, and 
is hunted as a hare with a full cry of hounds. Unfortunately 
Jonson's play, which is a fragment, ends just as we are coming 
to a full acquaintance "with her spindle, threads and images." 
This minute realism Jonson gives us in his Masque of Queens, 
the antimasque of which is sustained by a bevy of witches, 
equipped with all the gruesome horrors that the reading and re- 


search of their learned author could lavish upon them. For 
the Elizabethan witch, outside Scott's famous DisH:overy of 
Witchcraft, there is no such authority as Jonson. The associa- 
tion of Middleton's drama, The Witch, with the witches of 
Macbeth has already been adverted to in this book. Middle- 
ton's Witch, with true Renaissance confusion of ideas, is first 
linked on (as in our version of Macbeth), to the classical figure 
of Hecate with whom English and Scottish witches have noth- 
ing to do, and then employed to elucidate the intrigue of a 
romantic tale derived from Belleforest. Middleton's play is 
unimportant except for its association with the revision of 
Macbeth. We may conclude this matter with two late plays 
that involve witchcraft and hark back as well to the older 
domestic drama. In the first. The Witch of Edmonton, Dekker 
was assisted by William Rowley and John Ford, if indeed the 
latter be not a reviser, about 1620, of the other's earlier work. 
In the other, The Late Lancashire Witches, printed in 1633, 
Heywood was associated with Richard Brome. This latter play 
is a perfect mine of current witch-lore and tells the story of the 
transformation of a supposedly respectable housewife into a witch 
by night, her escapades, her injury by a stroke of her husband's 
sword while transformed into a cat, the discovery of her converse 
with evil, her trial and delivery over to justice. The story 
was based on actual and recent happenings, so recent indeed 
that it is not impossible that the play may in some wise have 
affected the verdict against the unfortunate Mistress Generous 
and her supposed confederates. In The Witch of Edmonton 
we have a drama as superior to Heywood's in its execution as 
it is humane in its conception of this monster misconception of 
the age. The story is that of a forced marriage and its con- 
sequent tragedy which, it is suggested rather than insisted, is 
due to supernatural agency. Mother Sawyer, the witch, is 
represented as a wretched poverty-stricken old woman who is 
driven by the heartless ill-treatment of her neighbours to her 
converse with evil. A demon comes to her in the shape of a 
black dog and surprises her in one of her fits of impotent curs- 
ing. After the usual pledges, he becomes her " familiar." It 
is Mother Sawyer's black dog that brushes against the legs of 
Young Thorney and fawns upon him at a moment when his 
innocent young wife has become a burden to him, thereby in- 
stilling murder into his heart. But above the homely fidelity 
and truth of this latest of the domestic murder plays, is to be 


placed its pathos and the touch of sympathy for the miserable 
old hag whom the persecution and uncharitableness of her 
neighbours has driven to extremity. This recognition of an 
ultimate responsibility outside of the victim of persecution is re- 
markable in view of the fact that the play contains no word of 
doubt as to Mother Sawyer's actual possession by the powers of 
evil. This, too, was an actual event dramatized. Could we 
recover them we might find, among the lost plays of Henslowe 
and later, many other examples of the kind. 

Our pursuit of the domestic drama has carried us far afield 
and in point of time ahead of our object. But other in- 
fluences came so thick and fast in the reign of King James to 
confuse the simpler elements of earlier Elizabethan drama, that 
it seems best to anticipate in this respect. The close alliance 
of many plays already treated among romantic comedies and 
chronicle plays especially, will not have escaped the observant 
reader. Such a comedy for example as Heywood's Fair Maid 
of the West was as strong in its scenes of the tavern life of 
the adventurers of Plymouth as in Its scenes on the high seas or 
in romantic unknown Morocco. The essentially English fibre 
of our English drama can not be too strongly insisted on. 
With this remembered we may leave the subject. 



In any analysis which seeks the discrimination of things so 
complex as the products of dramatic literature, classifications 
will arise that seem to contradict one the other. Tragedy is 
after all a relative term; but aside from that, who will deny 
that Richard III is not equally a tragedy with King Lear or 
Othello; or Julius Caesar, in the conduct of its later scenes, as 
much a chronicle play as Henry Vf The tragedies of Shake- 
speare which are of English historical source have received their 
treatment in a previous chapter, and with them have been 
considered the dramas of like theme, the work of others, which 
may be grouped, it would seem not without reason, in a class 
referable to the common national consciousness that begot them. 
We proceed now to a consideration of the other tragedies of 
Shakespeare and his immediate contemporaries with a lively ap- 
preciation of the inadequacy of the brief treatment of these 
important productions which a sense of proportion none the less 
here demands. Leaving aside Titus, which we would frankly 
discard from the list of Shakespearean plays, Romeo and Juliet 
takes precedence in point of time, corresponding in its fervour 
and in the exuberance of its poetic expression with the earlier 
more joyous comedies. Between 1591 the supposed date of the 
earlier Shakespearean form of this tragedy and 1597 the alleged 
time of its final revision Shakespeare had widened his experience 
as a dramatist with at least three tragical historical plays, 
to say nothing of an improved technique in comedy. But the 
regular structure of Romeo and Juliet, its lyrical^ sweetness, its 
passionate sympathy with the young lovers mark it as the work 
of a young man. In comparison with the storm, the heat and 
the ingenious wickedness of Elizabethan tragedy at large there 
is a naturalness, a directness, an inevitableness about this world 
drama of youthful passion that places it forever alone. Its 
tone has been likened to a midsummer day in which the sun 



broods hot and golden in an atmosphere suffused with beauty 
and ominous of catastrophe and change. The beauty of Juhet, 
the passionate unreason of Romeo, the wit of Mercutio, even 
the grossness of the Nurse, seem dilated in that surcharged air. 
It is somewhat remarkable that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet 
should be the first English tragedy of note to celebrate the 
passion of man and woman in its purity. Previous heroines of 
such romance, Gismunda, for example, or Belimpena in The 
Spanish Tragedy, each has loved before and her untoward 
fate seems not wholly undeserved. Romeo and Juliet alone are 
the ill-starred lovers, mere shuttles in the loom of fate leaving 
a flash of colour in the sombre garment of time. 

It was some three or four years after the revision of Romeo 
and Juliet that Shakespeare recurred to tragedy in his Julius 
Casar, and here, befitting an historical theme, he returned to a 
modified form of the chronicle history. In this choice of a 
classical subject for the popular stage it is not impossible that 
Shakespeare may have been aware of something like a departure ; 
for, common as such subjects were at the universities and at 
court under humanist and Senecan example, the groundling of 
the Cross Keys or the Red Bull knew little enough of ancient 
history Yet even before Shakespeare the experiment had been 
tried. The Wounds of Citil War, by Thomas Lodge, which has 
to do with Marius and Sulla, and the anonymous Wars of 
Cyrus both were publiclv staged and date as early as most of 
the chronicle plays on English histor>^ Later, in the nineties, 
Heywood appears to have staged no less than five dramas dealing 
in a series of epic scenes that depicted ancient mythology, be- 
ginning with " the lives of Jupiter and Saturn ''and concluding 
with " the destruction of Troy." Another of Hev-wood s plays 
tells the tragedy of Lucrece.^ So that Shakespeare could 
scarcely have found an ignorant audience when he staged the 
latter events in the life of the greatest man of antiquity. Even 
the subject was not novel, there are five plays about Caesar on 
record before the date of Shakespeare's, though unfortunately 
no one of them has survived. In Julius Casar Shakespeare had 
recourse to Plutarch's Parallel Lives, his usual authority for 
ancient history — some have thought it his only authority. But 
he has used his material with freedom as well as discretion, ex- 
1 These six plays are The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Brazen 
Age, two plays on The Iron Age and The Rape of Lucrece. 


panding here the barest hint, as in the well-known orations of 
Brutus and Antony, and elsewhere inventively shaping his 
story. The character of Brutus especially develops under the 
dramatist's hand in dignity and power, while Caesar, his foil and 
victim, correspondingly suffers. The striking detail that makes 
the conspirators pause, their dreadful deed accomplished, to 
" bathe [their] hands in Caesar's blood " is Shakespeare's and 
referable to an old English custom in hunting the stag, and so 
is the touching incident of the sleepy page Lucius and his lute. 
The classical atmosphere of his source and his story appear to 
have given to this play a certain regularity of structure and 
conduct as compared with the freer specimens of contemporary 
romantic art: Shakespeare, in a word, is scarcely so restrained 
elsewhere. But Julius Ctesar presents none of the familiar 
mechanical features of contemporary Senecan practice, remain- 
ing equally free from Senecan rant and moralising commonplace. 

We may postpone to consideration in another place the 
several like plays of closer Senecan affiliation that succeeded 
Kyd's translation of Garnier's Cornelia, towards the end of the 
reign. It may be well, however, to anticipate somewhat our 
treatment of Jonson to consider here, for the sake of contrast, 
his two notable tragedies of classical subject. It does not seem 
altogether unlikely that Jonson's Sejanus, his Fall, first acted 
in 1603, was written in protest against what so excellent a 
classical scholar could not but have considered the careless, slip- 
shod romantic manner of depicting ancient life upon the popular 
stage. Jonson was one of the few men of his day likely to 
have been seriously affected by the historical anachronisms in 
which the plays of the time abounded. He knew and remem- 
bered, even if Shakespeare did not, that the conspirators in the 
orchard of Brutus were exceedingly unlikely to be disturbed by 
the striking of a clock, a device not invented until centuries 
after, and that the only effect of a pistol in the hands of 
Demetrius Poliorcetes, in one of the plays of Fletcher, would 
be to create laughter in the knowing auditor. We have^ one 
little scrap of Jonsonian criticism as to Julius Ccesar. In it he 
objects not to the conduct of the play but to the v^^ording of a 
passage which does not correspond to the wording of that 
passage as we have it.^ The specific question need not detain 
us here. Nor need we stop longer than to notice that the allu- 

2 As to both these matters see, Jonson, ed. Gifford-Cunningham, 
1875, i, 272; Hi, 398. 


sion in the prefatory matter of Sejanus (as published) to "a 
second pen," as present in the earlier unpublished version of 
that tragedy, has been thought by some to refer to Shakespeare, 
Sejanus was acted by the company to which Shakespeare be- 
longed and soon after Julius Casar, in all probability. More- 
over Shakespeare was an actor in Sejanus, as we know from 
the published list of actors in the Jonson folios. It is not im- 
possible that the rivalry between these two exponents of con- 
trasted romantic and classical ideals may have worked amicably 
together in an endeavour to reach a solution or a compromise, 
and it was honourable in Jonson when he came to publish 
his play to " have rather chosen," as he expressed it in the 
preface, " to put weaker and no doubt less pleasing [numbers] 
of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by 
my loathed usurpations." 

Sejanus is a master study in dramatic form of the early days 
of the empire, following, in the presentation of that enigmatic 
personage, Tiberius, and his pampered favourite, Sejanus, the 
story as presented in Tacitus and Suetonius. Jonson has suc- 
ceeded here, as no less in Catiline, in transferring to his pages a 
remarkably effective picture of ancient Rome in which not only 
the historians but the ancient poets and satirists have aided in 
many a stroke inappreciable except to the classically trained 
reader.^ When Jonson came to publish Sejanus, he cited line 
and chapter in the footnotes, after the exasperating manner of 
scholars, to avouch his learning. The work has not been a 
success on the stage ; Jonson's habitual attitude of arrogant con- 
tempt for the multitude had something to do with this. Now 
his critics and rivals took up this display of scholarship, Marston 
especially, in the preface to his Sophonisba declaring: " Know, 
that I have not laboured in this poem to tie myself to relate 
anything as an historian, but to enlarge everything as a poet. 
To transcribe authors, quote authorities and translate Latin 
prose orations into English blank-verse, hath, in this subject, 
been the least aim of my studies." The taunt is unmistakable, 
coming as it did, immediately after the performance of Sejanus. 
As to Marston's contribution to this rivalry in the representa- 
tion of ancient life in tragic form, indubitably he enlarged more 
things as a poet than he followed as an historian. Taking his 

3 "An Anachronism ascribed to Jonson," W. B. McDaniel in Mod- 
ern Language Notes, xxviii, 158, 159. 


subject, not from the classical authorities but from that old and 
favourite quarry of the dramatists, Painter's Palace of PleasurCj 
the atmosphere is as romantic as the substance is pseudo-his- 
torical. None the less Marston's Tragedy of Sophonisba is a 
fine play of its type and worthy of more praise than it usually re- 
ceives. It may be worth while to note that C^sar, Sejanus, 
Sophonisba and Heywood's Lucrece, all were on the stage 
within a period of two years; while, in 1603, likewise had ap- 
peared in print Dr. Matthew Gwinne's Nero Tragoedia Nova 
collecta a Tacito, Suetonio, Dione, Seneca, a Latin college 
drama of no small merit. In fact it might be interesting to 
know more concerning Jonson's relations to the Latin college 
drama of his time, for Jonson was learned not only in the 
ancients but in their modern Latin imitators and commentators. 
Gwinne's tragedy is only one of several Neros, Pompeys, CeBsars 
and other academic plays of the period, Latin and English. As 
to the popular stage, it was between 1606 and 16 10 that 
Shakespeare's attention was occupied with stories of ancient 
times; Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon, Pericles and 
Cymbeline all fall within those years. In 161 1, Jonson's 
Catiline, his Conspiracy was acted, once more by the King's 
players. Here Jonson followed, as a main authority, the well 
known narrative of Sallust, by no means reaching the excellence 
of Sejanus, but presenting, especially in the comedy scenes of 
the fashionable wanton Fulvia and Semphronia, vain of her 
Greek and her dabbling in politics, admirable pictures of ancient 
Roman social life. It is interesting to note that in Catiline 
Jonson reverts to certain of the Senecan practices from which 
Sejanus was measurably free. The classical ideas of Jonson, 
his theory of drama and the like will claim a wider attention in 
the next chapter. It is of interest to know that Jonson wrote 
a tragedy on The Fall of Mortimer, if we may trust the frag- 
ment remaining and a synopsis of what was to follow, even more 
Senecan in character than Catiline. Tragedy was not the forte 
of Jonson, yet no one can read his two admirable dramas of 
Roman history without a renewed respect for his scholarship 
and his powers as a poet and a dramatist of admirable ability.^ 

Leaving any mention here of the scattered tragedies on stories 
of ancient history which came later and either imitated Jonson 
or partook of the ruling romantic spirit of Fletcher, let us re- 
turn to the succession of Shakespeare's tragedies that follow upon 
Julius C^sar. Hamlet, by general consent the closest of these, 


must have been acted in the very last year of Elizabeth's reign ; 
but the topic, as a theme for drama, was already well known at 
least some dozen years before and we have already heard of the 
association of a lost tragedy on the story with the name of 
Thomas Kyd, The position of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the 
greatest of world tragedies, in breadth of its artistic significance 
unapproached and alone, causes any discussion of its position 
among the minor productions of its age to seem an impertinence. 
Yet, historically considered, Hamlet is accountable like other 
plays and susceptible of classification with others of its kind in 
that orderly sequence which governs the productions of genius 
with no less certain laws than lesser things in other realms of 
human activity and thought. Thus considered, Hamlet is one 
of a series of dramas, the works of several authors, which ex- 
tended from 1599 onward for a number of years and is known 
under the specific title, the tragedy of revenge.^ The earliest 
authentic examples of this class of plays are Kyd's lost Hamlet 
and his Spanish Tragedy, on the boards, as we have seen, a 
year or two before the Armada. Which preceded the other it is 
impossible to say ; but the likeness of the two stories is striking. 
A secret crime, a perpetrator above the law, the burden on the 
avenger suggesting at least the unseating of his reason, the 
discovery (or avenging) of the crime brought about by a play 
within a play — all these things are not only common to 
both stories, but they remained, however modified and variously 
emphasised,' recurrent notes in the entire series. The revival of 
the species seems referable to John Marston who placed on the 
stage, in 1599, a continuous drama in two parts entitled Antonio 
and Mellida and Antonio's Revenge. The first is a drama of 
Italian court intrigue, unconnected with the series except for 
the Hamlet-like melancholy with which the hero, Antonio, is 
endowed. His revenge, in the second play, is for his fathers 
murder and consequent upon a visit of his father's ghost who 
discovers to Antonio " the deep damnation of his taking-off. 
Moreover, the revenge is finally compassed by the agency of a 
masque. Marston, who was born in 1576, was a young law 
student and partlv Italian in his blood ; moreover, he was some- 
thing of a coxcomb in literature. In the previous year he had 
gained a sudden repute by a series of satires which were as 
strident and impudent as youth, cleverness and inexperience could 
make them. There is much noise, effort and talent in these 


plays, with their blood, terror, yet genuine imaginative force 
in places. Evidently Marston w^as striving hard after original- 
ity and in Antonio's Revenge he succeeded in outdoing the hor- 
rors of his original. It is not until 1602 that we have actual evi- 
dence of the revival of Kyd's old Spanish Tragedy, though cer- 
tain parallels between that play as revised and Antonio's Revenge 
point to an earlier date.* In 1601, at any rate, Ben Jonson was 
paid for certain " additions " to Kyd's old tragedy and those 
additions — some six in number — are easily traceable in the 
printed editions of the play that have come down to us. Jon- 
son's " additions " involve an increase in the meditative specula- 
tion and in the irony of the part of Hieronimo, the father who, 
in The Spanish Tragedy, is the avenger; and they involve like- 
wise a vivid dramatic presentation. 

It was in 1603 that the earlier quarto of Shakespeare's Hamlet 
was published. It had been registered in July 1602. The 
text of this quarto is imperfect and only about half as long as 
the text of the second quarto of 1604 and the slightly different 
text of the folio. On this, as on all other subjects Shake- 
spearean, the critics have fallen apart. But when we recall that 
the second quarto declares in its title that the play has been 
" enlarged to almost as much again as it was " and that it is 
" newly imprinted . . . according to the true and perfect copy," 
it is not unreasonable to harbour serious doubts as to the 
authenticity of the earlier version, if indeed it may not be a fair 
surmise that it contains material which may once have formed a 
part of Kyd's lost Hamlet.^ Into the intricacies of this ques- 
tion it is impossible to enter in a work of our present limitations. 
Suffice it to remark on the interesting correspondence in point of 
time between Marston's Antonio's Revenge, acted by the Paul's 
boys at their singing school late in 1599, Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, 
revived by the Admiral's men at the Fortune with new addi- 
tions by Jonson in 1600 and 1601, and Kyd's Tragedy of 
Hamlet, revised and subsequently wholly rewritten by Shake- 
speare in 1602 and 1603, and acted by the Chamberlain's men 
at the Globe. It was out of the heat of such contemporary 
rivalry that the Tragedy of Hamlet as we have it was evolved 

* See especially Antonio and Mellida, v. i and The Spanish Tragedy, 
III. xiii. 72. Also cf. Boas, Kyd, p. 66. 

6 See on the general topic, C. M. Lewis, The Genesis of Hamlet, 


and the struggle was between the veritable dramatic Titans of 

A^krger number of " questions " have arisen out of the read- 
ing and pondering of Hamlet than out of any other play ; and 
the mass of commentary goes on increasmg. With a lively 
sense that these words must add, however inappreciably, to the 
heap it seems none the less necessary to proceed whether we 
shall' ever reach anything like a consensus of opinion as to the 
psychology or anything else concerning this most absorbingly 
interesting figure of fiction. And here is an essential first point. 
Hamlet is a creature of the poet's imagination, a figment of the 
dramatist's creation, not an historical personage. 1 he language 
which Hamlet speaks is that of the art which created him ; not 
that of the human material which forms the subject of the 
alienist's or the criminologist's researches. However true the 
dramatist's touch with nature, art is not nature nor is nature 
art Another essential to keep in mind is the absolute ir- 
relevancy of the extra-Shakespearean Hamlet, whether the mon- 
ster of Saxo-Grammaticus as set forth in Belleforest's Hystorie 
of Hamblet the distorted shadow of the German early version, 
Der Bestrafte Brudermord. or the Senecan avenger as we have 
some right to conclude Kyd's " Prince of Denmark ' to have 
been" Shakespeare's Hamlet, reduced to the simplest terms, 
is a man who has seen a ghost and Shakespeare's interest 
as a dramatist — and psychologist if you will — centres 
about the question : how would a man behave who had 
really seen a ghost? that is, how would a rational, hon- 
ourable, capable man behave? and that in Shakespeare's time, 
not in ours. When, moreover, the supernatural message en- 
tailed upon him a responsibility that altered the whole aspect and 
tenor of his life. The story of Hamlet is not the story of a 
madman ; Shakespeare was too good an artist for that. And 1 
do not think that the play was written either to depict the man 
of thought infirm of action, or the man of action confronted with 
a question that required and received no thought, as some have 
actually argued of contrariety. Hamlet is the story of a man 
in a state of nerves, a man in whom an unexpected contact with 
the invisible after-world has created a tensity of emotion that 
9Cf. the words of Lodge in Wits Misery. 1596: "The ghost which 
cried so miserably at the theatre like an oyster-wife, 'Hamlet re- 



sets up an incessant struggle between the calm and self-restraint 
that marks the normal man and the unfortunate who is " pas- 
sion's slave." It is this that transforms the Prince momentarily 
from the courteous gentleman that he is by nature and goads 
him to words of rudeness and insult. He can not stand the 
tediousness of Polonius, so he mocks him. The untruthfulness 
of Ophelia drives him to anathema of the whole sex. The bom- 
bast of Laertes' grief maddens him. Another thing the sight 
of the ghost has done for Hamlet. With the excitation of the 
nerves comes a marvellously quickened perception. He sees 
through Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern at a glance, penetrates the 
deceptive devices of Polonius and the King and wrings his 
mother's heart unerringly to bring home to her her wickedness. 
He can act, too, cleverly and efficiently as in his outwitting of 
Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. In a last analysis may we not 
discern that it was not Hamlet's hesitancy and inaction that 
denied to him the processes to his own revenge; but that the 
mockery of Fate (which rules all men) tossed him that bauble, 
his revenge, before it could have fallen logically and by his own 
act, within his reach? 

But the story of the tragedy of revenge is not yet all told. 
Aside from several titles of plays now lost, there was Chettle's 
Tragedy of Hoffman or a Revenge for a Father which cor- 
responds in point of time with Shakespeare's Hamlet as it strives 
to outdo its supernatural horrors; and there is Chapman's Re- 
venge of Bussy D'Ambois (a far finer play and the continuation 
of an earlier drama on the same hero), in which, far more un- 
mistakably than is Hamlet, the man of thought is thrust into a 
place of action. Chapman's Revenge was published later, in 
1608, but before that date had appeared the two lurid and effec- 
tive plays commonly attributed to Cyril Tourneur, The Atheist's 
Revenge and The Revenger s Tragedy in both of which we reach 
alike the height of the melodrama and the extremity of the ex- 
aggeration of the species. Of Tourneur little is known save 
that he was the relative of Captain Richard Turner, " water 
bailifif of Brill," and apparently held a like semi-military office 
in the Low Countries. The Atheist's Tragedy alone contains 
his name on the title page and a difference in diction, conduct of 
plot and ideal of life has raised a question as to Tourneur's 
authorship of The Revenger's Tragedy. Both plays, however, 
agree in the stridency of their melodramatic art, however the 
latter surpasses the former, as it transcends most of Its species. 


in its mastery of ingenious horror. To compare these lurid pic- 
tures of the depth of human depravity and ravening passion with 
Shakespeare is as unjust as it is inevitable. We may neglect 
Chettle and remain consolable that time has left only The 
Tragedy of Hoffman of the fifty plays in which he had at least 
a finger. With Chapman and Tourneur we are in the presence 
of stronger men, for neither their art, their poetry, nor their 
power to realise their terrible scenes is for a moment to be denied. 
The Revenger's Tragedy of the latter with Webster's White 
Devil, of which more below, stand almost alone among Eliza- 
bethan romantic tragedies in the supremacy of their dramatic 
realisation of the wickedness and debauchery that characterised 
the Italy of the Renaissance. 

Kindred in scene and general source to these tragedies of re- 
venge is Othello which disputes with Macbeth a place imme- 
diately following Hamlet, about 1 604. The transformation 
which Shakespeare has wrought in the sordid, dismal and pro- 
tracted novel of Cinthio, from which the tale is ultimately de- 
rived, should alone be sufficient to refute the statement, some- 
times made, that the great poet was not a creative genius of the 
first order. It might almost be said that the beautiful name, 
Desdemona, was the only poetical thing to be found in the old 
story; everything else — the light-headedness of Cassio, the dig- 
nity and noble suffering of Othello, the subtle malignity of 
lago — 'all are the inventions of the dramatist, to say nothing 
of the conduct of a plot as cleverly knit as it is naturally un- 
folded. Othello is the arch-tragedy of jealous passion, the more 
terrible in that the Moor is not by nature suspicious nor prone 
to evil imaginings. lago is the arch-villain of all literature, for 
his villainy is wanton and gratuitous and his victim the man who 
has loved and trusted him. It is impossible to regard lago's 
foul suggestions in this respect otherwise than as the baseless 
fabrications of a malignant mind ; just as any mitigation of the 
" sooty bosom " of the Moor in the interests of modern race- 
prejudice destroys the veritable cause out of which the tragedy 
of this amazing marriage was inevitably to spring. However 
pitiful the catastrophe, Shakespeare never sinks to the despairing 
pessimism of our modem conception of human tragedy that 
leaves man, innocent or guilty, the sport of an impersonal fate 
in which a hideous apathy has usurped the place of the compre- 
hensible Greek envy of the gods. Desdemona, lovely and inno- 
cent, even in thought, of lago's devilish insinuation, had been 


none the less an undutiful daughter, bringing her father's white 
head literally in sorrow to the grave, and Othello, for his 
credulousness as well as want of faith, might serve for argu- 
ment in this regard to one less subtle than a casuist. In a word, 
the catastrophe of Othello and Desdemona is not unjustifiable 
in an orderly world such as most men persist to believe in, nor 
could anything save disaster be predicted for so ill-sorted, so 
hasty and so ill-advised a union. Indeed, whatever the niceties 
of our distinctions between aesthetic and ethical values in the 
realms of art,^ it is their coincidence after all that marks the 
supreme artistic creations of man. 

There is a passage in Macbeth that has caused some to sup- 
pose that it followed hard upon Hamlet.'' Whatever the fact, 
in the matter of text no two works could be in greater contrast. 
Not only have we for Macbeth no quarto, only the folio, but 
the text seems mutilated and interpolated in parts with alien 
material, some of which, especially the speeches of Hecate and 
the attending dialogue, have been found in a play of Middleton 
already adverted to called The Witch. Not unlikely the ver- 
sion that we have is one that suffered later revision. This 
would account for the fact that Macbeth is one of the shortest 
of the tragedies, besides explaining certain inconsistencies in the 
conduct of the story. In Macbeth Shakespeare returned, as is 
well known, to Hollnshed's Chronicles for his materials, using 
them, however faithfully to the bare fact, with that imaginative 
freedom that transformed the vulgar, meddlesome witches of 
Scottish folk-lore into a supernatural embodiment of human 
temptation to evil with Its attendant, supernatural terrors. 
Whatever the explanation, nothing could be in greater contrast 
than the leisurely development of situation in character in 
Hamlet and this swift, lucid and vigorous story of the degen- 
eration of a loyal thane into a cruel and infatuated tyrant, ten- 
fold more interesting for the Intrepid, devoted and equally in- 
fatuated figure of Lady Macbeth, whose ambition was the fruit 
of her love for her husband, not, like Macbeth's, the spur of 
vulgar, personal aggrandisement. 

Close to Macbeth, perhaps even before it, came King Lear. 
Lear like Macbeth follows the old chronicles, but with far 
greater freedom and with the almost certain intervention of an 
older drama known as The History of King Leir. This was 

^ See Macbeth, i. 7. 10-12. 


acted, according to Henslowe, in 1594, registered in that year 
and printed, so far as we know, for the first time in 1605. 
This publication of an old play with the false statement, " as 
it was lately acted," marks a clear attempt on the part of a 
piratical publisher to palm of¥ a spurious production as Shake- 
speare's, a misrepresentation which was responded to in un- 
equivocal terms on the title page of the quarto of 1608. " Mr. 
William Shakespeare his True Chronicle History of the Life 
and Death of King Lear." Shakespearean innovations on the 
sources are the conversion of the drama into a tragedy, the 
banishment and disguise of Kent, the creation of the fool and 
the addition of the underplot of Gloucester and his two sons 
derived from an episode in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. But 
little does this tell of the transformation of a pleasing and pa- 
thetic comedy of no very serious import into this stupendous and 
torrential tragedy of the irrational, imperious Lear, the strident, 
unfilial daughters and their sweet-voiced, womanly sister, Cor- 
delia, the faithful Kent and the sad-eyed clown — all etched 
into the picture on the background of an elemental war of na- 
ture with the mordant acid of tragic genius. In Macbeth and 
King Lear, as in the lesser tragedies of Coriolanus and Timon 
of Athens, there is a higher unity of passion that preserves each 
drama in its own essential key. As Macbeth is the tragedy of 
murderous royal ambition and Lear the cataclysm that follows 
I! on human folly, however regal its masquerade and pathetic its 

l|' consequences, "so Timnn is the tragedy of misanthropy and 

Coriolanus that of arrogant, self-willed pride. It is not the 
least of the merits of Shakespeare that in no one of these cases 
has the attribute obscured the individuality of the hero. The 
minor position of these two latter plays is referable to other 
reasons. Tinmn is of uncertain date and there is nothing to 
show that it was ever acted during Shakespeare's lifetime. 
Moreover, the text is unequal and it has been doubted if it is 
wholly his. Coriolanus, on the other hand, is certainly Shake- 
speare's and the latest of the tragedies, in all likelihood, as to 
composition; but it, too, was badly printed and external evi- 
dence as to its composition and acting is altogether wanting. 
Yet Coriolanus in its major portraiture of the egotistic, self- 
willed hero, the patrician Roman matron, Volumnia, his mother, 
and admirable, garrulous old Menenius, is not unworthy of its 
place beside the other Roman plays of Shakespeare. ^ It may be 
doubted if the spirit of old Rome is better preserved in either of 


the greater plays, to say nothing of the many dramas by Shake- 
speare's contemporaries — always excepting Jonson — that lay 
their scenes in the august capitol of the imperial city of an- 

There remains Antony and Cleopatra, if we are to judge by 
the Stationers' Register, on the stage by 1608, although unpub- 
lished until its appearance in the folio. Here, as in Julius 
Ccesar, Shakespeare's immediate source was Plutarch whom he 
followed with even more than his customary fidelity, however 
he succeeded in his usual amazing transformation of his ma- 
terial into something possessed of a new artistic organism. 
Seldom has the sesthetic acumen of Coleridge so completely for- 
saken him as when he advises that Antony and Cleopatra " be 
perused in mental contrast with Romeo and Juliet, — as the love 
of passion and appetite opposed to the love of affection and in- 
stinct." And nothing could be more admirable than the late 
Dr. Furness's refutation of this idea.^ In this great tragedy 
even more than in the case of some others are we prone to con- 
fuse the figures of the diverse kinds of fiction that we call his- 
tory, drama and poetry. The impression which any cultivated 
man retains of an important personage in history is at best a 
composite of the reading that has happened to be his, superim- 
posed on tradition and, we may add, modified by his own per- 
sonal prejudices. This is why we often have such difficulties 
with Shakespeare's historical characters, reading into them ex- 
traneous matters and distorting the significance of his text. To 
Shakespeare the love of Antony and Cleopatra was no mere 
vulgar liaison between a sensualist conqueror and a royal trull, 
intriguing to postpone the inevitable collapse of a degenerate 
dynasty. Nor was the story, as Dryden heroically conceived it, 
a struggle between unlawful love and forfeited honour for the 
restoration of Antony's peace of soul. To Shakespeare the all 
important thing was the personality of his characters. What 
must have been the fascination of Cleopatra thus to have won 
to his destruction the greatest captain of his age? And what 
must have been this great love for what Antony conceived his 
honour, his life, the world well lost? Such a love Shakespeare 
knew could not be wholly ignoble, hence while he never for one 
moment condones this heroic infringement of accepted moral 
law, he compels us to see how heroic, after all, it is and how 

8 Cf. the New Variorum ed. of Antony and Cleopatra, 1907, p. xiv. 


inconceivable it would be to form so lofty a structure on mere 
sensuality and moral degeneracy. 

Shakespeare's chronological range in tragedy extends from the 
year 1590 at earliest, when The Spanish Tragedy and Arden 
of Feversham were new to the stage, to 1 609, before the 
Fletcherian dramatic compromise, known as tragicomedy, had 
come into popularity. Shakespeare's competitors in tragedy 
during this period were many and discrimination as to their 
activities is not always easy. There were, first of all, Kyd and 
Marlowe, already sufficiently treated, whose plays maintained 
their hold upon the stage for a generation despite the deaths 
of both in the early nineties. In these years tragedies derived 
from English history — Edward II, Richard III, Edward IV — 
appear to have held the popular voice against romantic tragedy, 
to be followed by a temporary interest in topics derived from 
Roman history. This we have already found exemplified in 
several fine dramas by Shakespeare and others, especially Jon- 
son who endeavoured to compromise between the extravagance 
and inconsistency of romantic art and a slavish following, on 
the other hand, of Senecan traditions. Another, perhaps more 
immediate, outgrowth of the chronicle play is the extension of 
its method to subjects derived from foreign modern history. 
So far as we know, Marlowe's Massacre at Paris, 1593, was 
the first important drama of this particular species, and it was 
Marlowe's example that turned the attention of George Chap- 
man to the tragic possibilities of contemporary French history 
in the plays of the brothers D'Ambois, the Duke of Byron and 
Chabot. About Chapman and his comedies of manners we 
shall hear more below; we have met him already as a writer 
of serious romantic comedies not unaffected by the contemporary 
example of Shakespeare. We have found, too. The Revenge of 
Bussy D'Ambois in its place among the tragedies of revenge. 
The informing spirit of this play, as of Bussy D'Ambois, its 
predecessor in the series of Chapman's French tragedies, is 
romantic. Bussy is an upstart courtier and bravo raised by the 
whim of Monsieur, brother to the king, to a favour and ac- 
ceptance at court that gives full vent to Bussy's intolerable 
egotism. In the end he falls traitorously, if morally justly 
enough, by the hand that raised him. But no mere recital such 
as this could make clear the mingled excellencies and defects of 
Chapman's remarkable work. Chapman, as became the trans- 
lator of Homer in a romantic age, has the grand heroic manner. 


In his diction the rhetorical tone, which he caught from the 
prevailing Senecan influence of his time, is often raised to a 
higher power by his sheer poetry. As we read Bussy D'Ambois 
we are struck again and again with Chapman's wisdom, his 
mastery of the phrase, his imaginative eloquence; as we lay 
down the play we wonder that a course so devious and appa- 
rently without design could have compassed a dramatic effect 
so complete and lasting. Nor would an estimate involving 
some such ideas be less applicable to Chapman's other historical 
tragedies. The two plays on Charles, Duke of Byron, appear to 
have been acted soon after The Revenge of Bussy about 1608. 
In all, the atmosphere of political intrigue in an elegant but cor- 
rupt court is preserved with excellent fidelity, and the person- 
ages of contemporary neighbouring France are represented so 
faithfully, at times so scandalously, that we hear of a remon- 
strance from the French ambassador at London and of the 
arrest of several of the actors concerned. Chapman later pro- 
tested vigorously against the ruling of Sir George Buc who 
excised certain passages of Byron when license to print was 
requested. Indeed one of these plays remains to us in Its mu- 
tilated condition, a proof of the effective censorship which King 
James exacted where political allusion was concerned. The 
fifth of Chapman's historical tragedies is Chabot, Admiral of 
France. In the version that remains to us this fine tragedy 
was revised by the skilful dramatic hand of Shirley, at some 
time in the early sixteen thirties. The theme is both novel and 
interesting; it concerns an honourable and upright servant of 
his king who dies broken-hearted because of his sovereign's sus- 
picion and mistrust, the result of the machinations of his enemies. 
While less imaginative and uncontrolled than Chapman's earlier 
work in this kind, Shirley has made out of Chapman's material 
by far the best drama of the series. It seems unwise to include 
either Revenge for Honour or Alphonsus of Germany among 
the works of Chapman. The former is a tragedy of Turkish 
court life and the work of Henry Glapthorne ; the latter a play 
not Impossibly of the revenge series, but alike indeterminable as 
to date and authorship. It has attracted the attention of Ger- 
man scholars from Its German story and the circumstance that in 
it is to be found considerable quotation In the language of the 

Other employment of French history came later, save, per- 
haps, for the rough and ready product of the playhouse. The 


Isloble Spanish Soldier by Dekker and Samuel Rowley, from its 
similar subject in parts and from the nature of its allusions to 
the court of King Henry IV probably of a date not far from 
that of Chapman's two plays on Byron. Wiser than their pred- 
ecessor, the joint authors of The Noble Spanish Soldier evaded 
the pains and penalties of contemporary allusion by transform- 
ing the scene of their drama to Spain and making a tragedy out 
of events that had not reached, in their reality in Henry's court, 
so serious a termination. Not dissimilar was the device after- 
wards pursued by Fletcher and Massinger in Thierry and 
Theodoret, 1 617, not improbably a revision of an early play of 
other authorship, known in 1597 under the title " BranhowUe'' 
Henslowe's approximation to Brunhalt. Here, once more, it 
has been thought that contemporary happenings in the neigh- 
bouring court of France were staged under the disguise of a 
stor>^ of Merovingian times. The play itself is powerful and 
forbidding, and a favourable specimen of the Fletcherian art of 
dramatic contrast. Scarcely less forcible is The Bloody Brother 
or Rollo Duke or Normandy, variously dated between 1606 
and 1624 and the work of several hands, Fletcher, William 
Rowley and Jonson supposedly among them. But no such 
duke apparently disgraces the annals of historical Normandy. ^ 
But France was not the only modern country to lend historic 
material to Elizabethan dramatic treatment on the stage. The 
diversity of tragic scene, as of comic, was to a large degree acci- 
dental, the subject-matter of our old plays commonly grouping 
for other reasons than these. Thus the tragedy of revenge gives 
us Italian Antonio, French D'Ambois, German Hoffman and 
Danish Hamlet; and it began in a Spanish Hieronimo. Be- 
sides the famous play of Kyd, Greene's Alphonsus of Aragon 
and Peele's Battle of Alcazar touch on material more or less 
historically Spanish, to say nothing of The Spanish Moor's 
Tragedy, referred to the authorship of Dekker, Haughton and 
Day in 1600, and perhaps Lust's Dominion, printed as Mar- 
lowe's in 1657. This play is certainly not Marlowe's; it is a 
shameless following of Titus Andronicus especially in the figures 
of " the lascivious queen " (the alternate title) and of Eleazer 
the Moor who at once recall Tamora the Gothic queen of 
Titus and Aaron, her paramour. Towards the end of the 
reign of King James, Spanish subjects, for political and other 
reasons, came into great request. To these we shall return; 
for the present it is enough to note that in the year 1619, Wil- 


liam Rowley's All's Lost by Lust was acted, a tragedy of re- 
markable frankness and effectiveness, in which is told the fa- 
mous old story of Spanish ballad literature, that of El Rey 
Rodrigo, the last Christian King of Spain, and his fall before 
the treacherous King of Barbary. We have met with William 
Rowley as an alleged collaborator with Shakespeare in The 
Birth of Merlin; we shall meet him again, especially in his 
dramatic association with Middleton. William Rowley is dis- 
tinguishable from his namesake, Samuel Rowley, whose name 
does not appear in Henslowe's Diary. William has been de- 
scribed as " beloved by those great men Shakespeare, Fletcher 
and Jonson." He was the junior of the youngest of these by 
several years. His collaborations were numerous and with 
many different playwrights. 

Of tragedies the scene of which is German, Chettle's Hoff- 
man and the anonymous Alphonsus of Germany have already 
been mentioned. The marriage of the king's daughter Eliza- 
beth to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, in 161 3, is responsible 
for a mediocre play, entitled The Hector of Germany or the 
Palsgrave Prince Elector by Wentworth Smith, a busy minor 
poet in Henslowe's employ. The extravagance of the wander- 
ings of the Hector from history and over the face of Europe need 
not concern us. A point of interest is the circumstance that the 
tragedy was acted at the Red Bull Theatre, not by professional 
players but by a troupe of " young men of the city." When 
all has been said, however, it was Italy that figured to the 
Elizabethan imagination, in tragedy as elsewhere, as the golden 
land of romance. Personages of Italian history appear in the 
titles of many plays from The Duke of Milan and the Duke 
of Mantua, in 1579, to Macchiavelli, the Medici, Pope Joan 
and others of Henslowe's mention in the nineties. An exceed- 
ingly eflFective tragedy of Italian quasi-historical character is 
The Devil's Charter by Barnabe Barnes, the Italianate sonneteer 
and lyrist. Here is told the life and terrible death of the 
wicked Pope Alexander VI and the story is correlated to the 
Faustus cycle by assuming the papal success in worldliness and 
wickedness the result of a compact with the devil. In a finely 
conceived, if melodramatic climax, the dying Pope catches at a 
curtain which conceals from him the future and, tearing it 
apart, beholds enthroned in all the regalia of priestly pomp and 
seated in the chair of St. Peter, Satan himself. The Devil's 
Charter was acted by the King's company in 1606. 


With our return to Italy we have returned to romantic 
tragedy. The years 1609 to ibi2 gave to the stage four great 
dramas in which woman is represented in the deadly perversion 
that brings destruction to man. The first of these in point of 
time is Fletcher's powerful The Maid's Tragedy which from its 
relations to his tragicomedies is best treated belovy; the latest 
was The Insatiate Countess, printed as Marston's, in 161 2, and 
perhaps not wholly his. The subject, " the difference betwixt 
the love of courtesan and a wife," Marston had already treated 
with effect in his comedy, The Dutch Courtesan. Both plays 
belong, in a sense, to the domestic drama, and the tragedy, m 
its terrible picture of the career of a veritable queen of wantons, 
however it horrify, for its subject cannot but be commended 
for its vigorous art. Middleton's Women Beware IVomen, 
acted about 1612, is neither less forbidding in subject nor in- 
ferior in dramatic power. This tragedy tells the story of a 
recent Italian scandal, that concerning Francesco de' Medici 
and his abandoned mistress, Bianca Capello. In his underplot 
Middleton touches the foul topic of incest, maintaining here, as 
in his comedies, his repute as the most veritable realist of his 
age. The fourth of these tragedies of misguided and perverted 
womanhood is Webster's The Hliite Devil, the dramatization 
of a recent cause celebre, the outcome of another scandal in 
Italian high life. ^^ 

Of John Webster ven' little is known save that he was 
born free of the Merchant Tailors' Company " and was a fel- 
low-worker with Dekker, Middleton and Marston. His 
earliest work, now no longer extant, belongs to the very last 
years of Elizabeth's reign. Thereafter he was concerned in 
something less than a score of plays and pageants, comprising 
historical drama such as Sir Thomas Wyatt, comedies of man- 
ners and intrigue like Westward Ho and Northward Ho, and 
classical tragedy represented in Appius and Virginia. Of the 
several comedies doubtfully attributed to Webster at least in 
part, it is unnecessary to speak here. Webster is remembered in 
the history of English literature for one thing and that is for 
his extraordinary power in romantic tragedy, alike in the crea- 
tion of character and in the skilful handling of material; and 
his two masterpieces are The White Devil and The Duchess 
of Malfi, both acted before 1612. In the first we have the 
story of the infatuation of the Duke of Brachiano for the 
beautiful Vittoria Corombona, his murder of her husband and 


his own wife at the instigation of Vittoria, their subsequent trial, 
flight and marriage with the vengeance of the brother of the 
late Duchess on the guilty pair. The radiant beauty of Vittoria 
pervades the play and, conscious though we are at all times of 
her abandonment to passion and her calculating cunning when 
brought to her defence, we too feel the fascination that per- 
verted her judges and the spectators at her trial. Scarcely 
less effective are the figures of the profligate Brachiano, of 
Flamineo, the cynical pander to his own sister's shame, and the 
distracted mother of these extraordinary and brilliant creatures 
of vice. The Duchess of Malfi, which is usually regarded as 
the later play, preserves the same atmosphere of intrigue and 
counter intrigue in the ducal courts of Italy and portrays, in 
the " Arragonian brothers " and in their creature Bosola, three 
of the most consummate portraits within the range of our 
drama. Bosola the intelligencer, depraved, discontented, ab- 
solutely clear-sighted as to his wicked acts and their conse- 
quences, unvisited by compunction in his cruelty yet smitten 
with remorse in disappointment of his reward, — such a villain 
is worthy to stand beside lago himself. Above all in her 
beauty and pathetic fate, stands the Duchess of Malfi, victim 
of unparalleled indignities, losing all, husband, children, life 
itself, yet victor over the machinations of her wicked brothers 
against her in her equally unparalleled fortitude. In depicting 
the ingenious horrors with which the half-crazed Ferdinand 
tortures his unhappy sister of Malfi in the vain endeavour to 
break her unconquerable spirit, Webster proclaims himself our 
master poet in the domain of the terrible. Sustained as is all 
by a competent diction, a power over language and illuminated 
by single lines of flashing genius, Webster takes his place for 
these two tragedies as second only to the master poet himself. 
We have seen how popular romantic tragedy was affected 
from the first by the example of Seneca, the cult of whose 
tragedies, beginning at court with the reign of the queen, was 
extended to the playhouses of the city by such men as Peele 
and Kyd. But Kyd was author not only of The Spanish 
Tragedy, which was Seneca popularised for the vulgar, but 
also of a translation of Robert Garnier's Cornelie which, though 
unsuccessful on the stage, led to a series of academic dramas 
imitative of the Roman tragedian in a new solution, this time 
French. Recent investigation into the sources of Elizabethan 
literature tend to show that the age was affected by the litera- 


ture of France far more and much more directly than has 
hitherto been accepted. The Elizabethan lyric turns out, for 
example, to be extensively imitative of that contemporary in 
France and many a story, formerly imagined to have come to 
England directly from Italy or Spain, has been shown to have 
arrived by way of the same intermediary.® French Seneca, as 
we may call this small group of tragedies, centres about the 
Countess of Pembroke and her immediate circle. As early as 
1590 the Countess herself had translated Garnier's Antonie, 
preserving the lofty tone, the frigidity and stately air of her 
original; and Kyd's Cornelia, as well as his projected transla- 
tion of another tragedy of Gamier, his Porcie, which was not 
completed, both are referable to this impetus. The rest of the 
group include several original tragedies by Daniel, Brandon 
and Sir Fulke Greville, all of them falling, in point of date 
of composition, within the last ten or twelve years of Elizabeth's 
reign. A little later, Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl 
of Stirling, brings up the rear with his Monarchic Tragedies, 
1603 to 1^7. whether as an actual intimate of this noble liter- 
ary circle or as an imitator of its achievements may be left in 

By far the most important person in this group was Samuel 
Daniel, to be recorded recognition in any history of the litera- 
ture of the time for many estimable qualities as a man and a 
poet. Daniel was the son of a musician and born in 1562. 
His education he had at Oxford, beginning his career as a poet 
as early as 1584 with his graceful ItaHante sonnets to Delia, 
the first series to follow in the wake of Sidney's famous Astro- 
phel and Stella. While chronicle plays were holding the stage, 
Daniel wrote his narrative poem, The History of the Civil War, 
which enjoyed like other productions of its class, Warner's 
Albion s England, and Drayton's The Barons War, for ex- 
ample, a greater popularity in its day than its merits now appear 
to warrant. It was later, in the reign of King James, that 
Daniel gained further literary laurels for his masques and pas- 
toral dramas. And it was then that Jonson's enmity overtook 
him. In the interim came his two contributions to " French 
Seneca," Cleopatra, 1594, and Philotas, 1600. There is elo- 
quence, choice diction and much poetical spirit in both these 

9 See especially Sir Sidney Lee, The French Renaissance tn Eng- 
land, 1 9 10. 


tragedies. More, there is a queenly grace and dignity about the 
figure of Cleopatra, here represented in the heroic resolve of 
her last hours, that the reader remembers with pleasure; but 
neither production is truly dramatic, nor, with all his talent, 
was the dramatist in Daniel. We read with interest that there 
was some fear on the part of the author lest his Philotas, the 
story of a young noble, full of pride, and outspoken in criticism 
of his sovereign, Alexander, might be held to touch " too nearly 
the like story of the Earl of Essex, in this very year disgraced 
and on trial for his foolish and disloyal outburst against his 
queen. A similar fear caused Greville to destroy the manu- 
script of a play of his on Antony and Cleopatra. Clearly more 
importance was attached to the words of courtiers and scholars 
than to the treatment of historical topics by the poets or common 
players. Innuendo and " dark writing " was one of the accepted 
arts of the time and what those within the precincts of the court 
might say, was a thing of moment. Samuel Brandon's Virtuous 
Octaviaj 1599, is by no means devoid of merit though chiefly 
interesting here for its subject taken in conjunction with the 
efforts on the story of the same hero by Lady Pembroke, Daniel 
and Greville. Of Brandon personally nothing is known. 

In turning to the extant tragedies of Fulke Greville we meet 
with work of a higher order. Greville was the boyhood friend 
of Sir Philip Sidney and born in the same year. Like Sidney 
he enjoyed the personal favour of his queen whose memory with 
that of his friend he embalmed, years after, in one of the sin- 
cerest and choicest of Elizabethan books, Greville's Life of Sir 
Philip Sidney. Greville became an important councillor of 
King James under his later title. Lord Brooke, and, as owner 
of Warwick Castle, dispensed noble hospitality in his day. He 
lived to an advanced age being finally murdered by a servant 
in 1628. The two plays of Greville are Alaham, written about 
1600, and Mustapha, probably some five or six years later. 
We have here evidently works of maturity, very different from 
the efforts of young literary men like Daniel and Brandon in 
intent and based alike on a wider reading and a wider experi- 
ence in life. Indeed it may be questioned if the particular 
dramatic form in which these dramas were cast was more than 
accident, the author taking the mode current in his own circle 
and concerning himself not at all about anything outside. ^ In 
story these tragedies draw on material as remote as possible, 
one would think, from contemporary interest. The scene of 


Alaham is laid in " the kingdom of Ormus," Mustapha is 
drawn from the history of the Ottomans, not impossibly from 
Knollys' General History of the Turks, a new book at the 
accession of King James. Both are stories of palace intrigue, 
of malevolent ambition, noble fortitude and suffering under 
cruel irifliction. Moreover, both are exceedingly original in 
conduct, in conception of personage though almost parallel in 
plot. But for none of these things were these tragedies written. 
Greville declares for us his intention, in them as in his poetical 
" Treatises " on government, ambition and other like themes, 
to be " to trace out the highways of ambitious governours, and 
to show in the practice, that the more audacity, advantage and 
good success such sovereigns have, the more they hasten to their 
own desolation and ruin." These tragedies differ from all the 
dramas of their age in existing for a speculative, not an artistic 
or merely moral, purpose. Greville is not alone in abstract 
moralising, Daniel did that in this group of plays before him 
and Stirling especially after; nor is Greville alone in writing 
for a purpose ulterior to the artistic one, that was common 
enough. Greville is conspicuous in the purely intellectual pro- 
cesses of his art and in the extraordinary logic of his Sto- 
icism, which causes him to regard all human activity, whether 
virtuous or depraved, as varieties of folly; the only true wisdom 
is patience. It w^as this, with some misapprehension as to the 
dramatic purpose of certain utterances that led to the notion 
that Greville was irreligious. His tragedies are the most truly 
philosophical of their time, for they exist for their speculative 
thought and thus presage such modern productions as Goethe's 
Faust and Browning's Sordello. The amazing thing about 
them is that the circumstance that their personages stand out 
with a vividness and an individuality little to be expected in 
work of such a design, and that passage after passage is sus- 
tained by sheer poetry. With Stirling's four Monarchic Trag- 
edies, Darius, Croesus, Casar and The Alexandrean Tragedy, 
variously published between 1603 and 1607, and outlying pro- 
ductions such as The Tragedy of Mariam by Lady Elizabeth 
Carew and Cynthia's Revenge by one John Stephen, these two 
latter printed in 1613, the tale of French Seneca comes to an 
end. Stirling's dramas are not without a certain historical 
value ; Stephen's, in its obscurity, allegory and bombast, may be 
pronounced the most intolerable of Elizabethan plays. We may 
add that it seems unlikely that any of these dramas were written 


for acting either privately or at court. All observe a more or 
less minute attention to the technical processes of the drama of 
Garnier, the brothers La Taille, and Grevin and rhyme, in coup- 
lets or alternately employed, abounds in the dialogue. It may 
be doubted if this series of exotic imitations had any effect 
whatever on the popular stage, unless it may have been to call 
attention to classical subjects; and of these on the popular stage 
enough has been said. 

Our tale of Elizabethan tragedy at its height is told; but 
there are some things that we may gather up by way of sum- 
mary. Of the fifty or more tragedies which have been men- 
tioned in this chapter, it is somewhat surprising to find nearly 
half referable to ancient story, however a proportion of those on 
the popular stage were romantically conceived and presented. 
The place which Kyd and Marlowe take as theme-givers to 
English tragedy is notable. The former's Spanish Tragedy and 
Hamlet led to the line of the tragedies of revenge, andTaw- 
burlaine started the war drama or conqueror play and, through 
Greene's Selimus and the like, the group of plays on eastern 
subjects. To the Elizabethan the annals of the Turk were of 
a very live interest, for it was only the Battle of Lepanto in 
157 1, that put a stop to Ottoman aggression in Europe. Hence 
popular dramas like Peele's lost Turkish Mahomet, scraps 
of which are quoted with Tamburlaine by Ancient Pistol; and 
hence rude melodramas such as Mulleasses the Turk, 1607, by 
one John Mason, and the lurid Turkish tragedies of Thomas 
Goffe. To return to the influences on tragedy, it can hardly 
have been merely an accident that Kyd's Cornelia in 1592 and 
Marlowe's Dido, in the next year, should have been followed 
on Henslowe's stage by a Casar and Pompey and a 
" second part of desar; " while Marlowe's inspiration of 
the French histories of Chapman appears as certain as infer- 
ence from historical material can ever be. Tragedy on classical 
subjects is as old as the drama. Such plays existed at the uni- 
versities, as we have seen, and as Bower's Appius and Virginia, 
1563, and Geddes' Ccesar, in 1582, with many other examples, 
attest. The new infusion of Senecanism from France we have 
suflSciently examined. Its courtier cultivators were oblivious of 
the popular drama; though it is not so certain that the play- 
wrights of the London theatres may not have turned to topics 
derived from ancient history partly because of^ these literary 
efforts at court. Certainly when Shakespeare tried his hand at 


Julius Casar, Henslowe's poets, in this case described as " Mun- 
day, Drayton, Webster and the rest," responded almost im- 
mediately with Casars Fall; and Jonson, Heywood and Mar- 
ston put forth, soon after, each his rival tragedy in this kind, 
Chapman following a little later with his Casar and Pompey, 
a production not worthy his great name. The rivalry went on, 
rising to its height in Antony and Cleopatra, and closing in 
Coriolanus, i6o8, and in Jonson's Catiline, i6ii. Of the 
tragedy of revenge no more need be said. Shakespeare's Lear 
and Macbeth hark back to earlier times, for each is, in a sense, 
a glorified chronicle play. Romeo and Juliet and Othello be- 
long to the general class of romantic tragedy founded on Italian 
story and differ from their kind mainly in the individualism of 
their art, what genius has wrought above their species. Save 
for Chapman's definite group of historical dramas touching 
French history, only one remaining group stands notably forth 
among the various themes of the tragedies of the days of James; 
and this is the terrible series which details the life of the noble 
harlot, beginning with Titus and Lust's Dominion, which has 
been attributed to Marlowe, and including The White Devil 
of Webster, Middleton's Women Beware Women and Mar- 
ston's Insatiate Countess. An atmosphere more or less his- 
torical dominates some of the remaining dramas, The Noble 
Spanish Soldier and All's Lost by Lust for example; others rise, 
like The Duchess of Malfi, in their artistic isolation above the 
circumstantiality of fact. To the writing of these tragedies 
during a period of some twenty years was brought the genius 
and the talents of a score of writers at court, in the universities 
and especially on the public stage. And their^ theories of 
tragedy were no less diverse than their stations in life, their 
learning and their opportunities. Assuredly the disparity be- 
tween the learned Dr. Gwinne of Oxford, ransacking Tacitus, 
Suetonius and Dio Cassius accurately to write his Latin 
Nero and Samuel Rowley, dramatizing a contemporary scandal 
of the French court, disguised as a " Spanish story," is as great 
as that between Webster, intent on a faithful and artistic 
picturing of the deeper passions that animate and ruin mankind, 
and Greville, oblivious to all save a vivid illustration of his 
theory of speculative stoicism. And the variety of this drama 
is equally great, ranging from the rhetorical frigidity of Daniel 
to Jonson's vigorous historical portraiture, and from the signifi- 
cant poetry of Chapman and Shakespeare's masterful grasp 


down to the melodramatic extravagances of Chettle, Mason 
and GofEe. The range of this wonderful musical instrument, 
Elizabethan drama, is always amazing, as often as we are 
beguiled to listen to the rich, full harmony of its music in 
master hands. There has been no age in which, proportionate 
to the population, so many wrote dramas, and there has been 
none in which so large a number of these rose above respecta- 
bility to a memorable excellence. The new age was to care 
more for the horrors of tragedy than for its significance. Up 
to within a few years of Shakespeare's death there was still no 
form of the drama which carried such an artistic weight and 
message, none in which we meet with a deeper philosophy or 
with more imperishable poetry. 



We know more about Ben Jonson than about any other literary 
man of his age; and barring Shakespeare, Jonson Is by far the 
most significant literary figure of his time. A posthumous son, 
born in Westminster, some nine years after Shakespeare, Jonson 
survived to long outlive his friend and carry the authority of 
his name and the sanction of his dramatic practices into the reign 
of King Charles. Jonson died in 1637, long the victim of ill 
health and a certain amount of neglect at court. We have 
novi^ to chronicle his palmier days. Jonson " was brought up 
poorly," his mother having remarried and beneath her, a brick 
layer; calumny even whispered that Jonson had at some time 
exercised his step-father's trade. But the antiquary Camden, 
then an usher at Westminster School, befriended Jonson and he 
received his schooling there, though unable afterwards to pro- 
ceed to either university. Degrees he had later from both 
" by their favour not his study," and it is interesting to think 
of the academic world of those times so honouring a purely 
literary man. Jonson married quite as imprudently as Shake- 
speare and when almost as young. Thereafter he went abroad 
and " trailed a pike " in Flanders, on one occasion, as he de- 
lighted to tell, singling out a champion from among the enemy, 
calling him forth, and killing him in sight of both armies. 
He returned from Flanders penniless, and had recourse, like 
many another, to Henslowe's mart in the drama. This must 
have been about 1595 or a year later. At any rate Henslowe's 
entries show, as to Jonson, at first called familiarly " Ben- 
jamin," the usual course of apprenticeship, the revision and 
refashioning of old plays when revived, collaboration with others 
and general services about the playhouse. There are contra- 
dictory traditions as to Jonson as an actor. We have no list 
in which his name so figures, as we have in the case of Shake- 
speare. He was taxed by his enemies with having once played 



the part of Hieronimo in The Spanish Tragedy; but it is un- 
likely that he ever made much of a success. He was a raw- 
boned lad and later became corpulent, and he describes himself 
in later life as possessed of " a mountain belly and a rocky 
face." By 1598 Jonson had begun, however, to receive 
recognition, for he is mentioned in that year by the pragmatic 
Meres as one of " our best in tragedy." The earliest work of 
Jonson has perished. Henslowe named however three tragedies, 
Page of Plymouth, a murder play. King Robert II of Scotland 
and Richard Crookback, these latter clearly contributions to 
the current chronicle plays. Only a sketch of the last remains ; 
the others were written in collaboration ; all of them fall later 
than the mention of Meres. Jonson was sensitive about these 
experiments of his nonage and appears to have succeeded in 
covering up his earlier footsteps towards success. Only The 
Case is Altered, a comedy of romantic type, not unaffected by 
Shakespeare, remains of these early efforts, and of this Jonson 
never acknowledged his authorship. 

In the autumn of 1598 Jonson's pugnacity of disposition re- 
sulted in a duel in Hogsdon Fields in which he again killed his 
man, a fellow player and by all accounts something of a bravo, 
named Gabriel Spencer. The prevalence of duelling in Eliza- 
bethan England needs no comment for him who knows Eliza- 
bethan plays. But it was one thing for noblemen and gentlemen 
so to defend their honour and settle their differences ; it was an 
impertinent assumption of gentility on the part of a common 
player. Accordingly Jonson was tried at Old Bailey, convicted 
and sent to prison, and such possessions as he had " were for- 
feited." Indeed, Jonson only escaped the gallows by pleading 
the benefit of clergy and was branded on the thumb with a " T," 
for Tyburn, to commemorate that escape. While in prison 
Jonson became a Roman Catholic, a form of religion that he 
afterwards abjured to return to the faith of England. On his 
release, which seems to have been speedy enough, Jonson offered 
his services to the Chamberlain's men, in which company 
Shakespeare was now a leading shareholder. And here falls 
the pleasing story first related, it is believed, by Betterton: 
that Jonson, departing with the manuscript of Every Man in 
his Humour, refused by the reader, was recalled by Shakespeare 
who himself read his play and reversed the decision of the com- 
pany. Whatever the truth of this tradition, Jonson's comedy 
was accepted and acted within the year, 1598, Shakespeare tak- 


ing one of the parts. Every Man in his Humour made the 
reputation of Jonson. This first success is commonly reckoned 
an epoch-making play, for in it the poet set forth in practice 
certain very definite theories concerning English comedy which 
were his. Jonson was an observer of the life about him as 
well as a student of the past. He desired to compass a satirical 
picture of contemporary life presented vividly and amusingly, 
and to do this with a becoming regard for the practice of comedy 
as exemplified in the best classical models. The plot of Every 
Man in his Humour is exceedingly simple: an intercepted letter 
reveals to a father that his supposedly studious son is really 
somewhat of a gallant; the father follows the son to the city 
and their adventures with the personages they meet, together 
with those of their knavish servant, Brainworm, who follows 
both on his own account, form the fabric of the plot. The 
novelty of the comedy lies in the conception of the personages, 
each governed by some salient trait or characteristic. Brain- 
worm with his passion for " gulling everybody," gulled in the 
end himself, Bobadil, eager to appear the supreme duellist 
though, unfortunately for his ambition, at heart a coward ; 
Knowell, Downright, their ver^' names, as often in Jonson, be- 
tray them. Now, to this kind of thing, Jonson gave — or at 
least gave popular currency to — the term a " humour," de- 
fining it as a ruling trait or bias of character such as determines 
the customary attitude and habitual conduct of the personage 
possessing it. He especially reprobated the abuse of the word 
to signify some trivial peculiarity or mannerism of costume or 
speech, a significance to which the term was subsequently some- 
times degraded. 

A satirical representation of life on the stage was of course 
no new thing. The elder drama was full of it, though never 
systemized as here. But this simplification of complex human 
nature to a leading typical trait was only a part of the poet's 
more general theory. Jonson was a classicist, that is, one who 
believes not only in the sanction and precedent of the ancients 
in literature and art, but one who believes in the restraint and 
respect for precedent which a study of former art should inspire. 
Jonson objected especially to the extravagance and unprofes- 
sional spirit of Renaissance poetry and drama. He believed 
that there was a professional and responsible way of doing all 
these things and that example for much of it can be found in 
the practices of ancient Greek and Roman authors. What 


Jonson did not believe — however ignorant misrepresentation of 
his own time or later may affirm it — was that the salvation of 
English literature was to be found in slavishly following classi- 
cal ways. " I see not," he says " but we should enjoy the same 
license, or free power to illustrate and heighten our inventions, 
as they [the ancients] did ; and not be tied to those strict and reg- 
ular forms which the niceness of a few, who are nothing but form, 
would thrust upon us." ^ His theories Jonson held to through 
a reasonable and triumphant practice of some forty years, stand- 
ing manfully in a position counter to the extravagant romantic 
trend of his age. And In the end the age came around to him. 
In poetry at large Jonson exercised a more powerful influence 
on his time than did any other author, not even excepting 
Shakespeare and Spenser, and it was Jonson's ideals and practices 
that led on logically to Dryden and Pope. As to immediate 
effect on the drama of his own time, the Jonsonian " humour " 
became the rage. Jonson followed up his own success with a 
play of companion title. Every Man Out of his Humour, and 
later completed the cycle of his dramatic work with The Mag- 
netic Lady or Humours Reconciled. There was Chapman's 
Humorous Day's Mirth in the same year with Jonson's second 
Humour, an inferior anonymous comedy, in 1 600, called Every 
Woman in her Humour, and Day, a few years later, named one 
of his sprightly comedies Humour Out of Breath. More im- 
portant than titles, Chapman and several lesser men came wholly 
over to Jonson's manner of writing comedy by way of humour 
and even Shakespeare disdained not to employ the method in 
personages such as Bardolph and Pistol, in Dr. Caius and his 
group in The Merry Wives and in the " humorous " Scotch, 
Welch and Irish captains of Henry V. In FalstafI and 
Malvolio we have Shakespeare's most serious eflforts to model 
dramatic character along the line of Jonsonian humorous sim- 
plicity. We can conceive of FalstafE or even of Malvolio 
under situations different from those which surround them in 
the dramas of which they are a part; it is difficult to think of 
Captain Bobadil, outside of the entertaining scenes of Every 
Man in his Humour. Shakespeare's genius even in shackles 
transcended the ingenious art of Jonson. 

With the success of his " comedy of humours," Jonson turned 
his attention determinedly in the direction of dramatic satire. 

1 See Every Man in his Humour, " Induction." 


Jonson was always sure of himself; and, however generous to 
his intimates, he was arrogantly contemptuous of the great mul- 
titude amongst whom he included all whom he had not person- 
ally chosen to be of the number of his friends. As he looked 
about him, towards the end of the year 1598, flushed with 
success, three persons especially attracted his satirical attentions 
and for reasons not altogether accidental. There was John 
Marston, two years his junior, recently from Oxford, author of 
several plays, in his new book, The Scourge of Villainy pro- 
claiming himself a satirist, and quite as opinionated and self- 
satisfied as Jonson himself. Secondly, there was Samuel 
Daniel, of whom we have also heard, the accepted entertainer 
of the court, Italianate, fashionable and effeminate — or at 
least so Jonson thought him — turning sonnets in the manner 
of Petrarch whom Jonson despised, and writing drama in the 
manner of Gamier whom Jonson did not understand, on easy 
terms, moreover, with great people, and these as yet Jonson did 
not know. Lastly, there was Anthony Munday, pageant master 
to the city, translator of romances, and collaborator with any- 
body in anything theatrical or other. These men in particular 
Jonson attacked in the three dramatic satires which form his 
contributions to what Dekker called the " poetomachia " and 
later critics have dubbed " the war of the theatres." It is in- 
teresting to note as to Jonson's personal ambitions respecting 
two of these men, that he became in later years chronologer 
of the city of London, a better post than that of pageant-poet, 
and that he also became poet laureate and the accepted enter- 
tainer of the court in a larger sense than Daniel had ever con- 
ceived the latter. 

Jonson's three famous dramatic satires are Every Man Out 
of his Humour, acted by the Chamberlain's men in 1599, Cyn- 
thia's Revels, or the Fountain of Self-Love, and The Poetaster, 
or his Arraignment, following in the two successive years, and 
acted, not by the Chamberlain's men, but by the children of the 
royal chapel: the change of company is significant. However 
the opinions of individual investigators may diverge, all must 
agree that in these plays Jonson satirized several of his fellow 
poets in terms as unmistakable as they are vigorous, though 
the three dramas may be differentiated as devoted more or less 
ostensibly to an attack respectively upon the follies of citizen 
life, of the court and of the poets. The causes, origin and the 
details of the conduct of this "war" must remain obscure 


from the nature of things, although much has been done to 
elucidate the subject.^ We may feel reasonably sure that Jon- 
son and Marston were the principals and that Dekker was later 
called in as a mercenary, so to speak, contributing only 
Satiromastix to the fray. According to Jonson, the whole thing 
began outside the drama in certain satirical allusions of Mar- 
ston's to Jonson in the former's Scourge of Villainy; and 
Marston's dramatic contributions to the quarrel have been 
found in Histriomastix, 1599, an allegorical drama of hetero- 
geneous contents which he made over, in a romantic comedy 
of intrigue called Jack Drurns Entertainment, 1 600, which 
Marston never acknowledged, and in parts of Antonio and 
Mellida which falls likewise within these years. On the other 
hand, there are epigrams of Jonson, variously charging one 
"playwright" (supposed to mean Marston) with cowardice, 
scurrility and plagiarism. Jonson told Drummond that " he 
had many quarrels with Marston [and that he] beat him and 
took his pistol from him." But, when all is said, we must not 
take these, valorous dramatic combatants too seriously. Two 
or three years later found Marston and Jonson in amicable 
collaboration with Chapman in an excellent comtdy, Eastward 
Ho, and in 1604, Marston printed his Malcontent with a dedi- 
cation " to Benjamin Jonson, that most grave and graceful 
poet, his very candid and beloved friend." 

To return to the dramatic satires, Jonson's method is simple 
and direct. The story in these three plays counts for very little, 
although the successive episodes are made sufficiently interest- 
ing to hold the reader's attention and, we may surmise, far more 
certainly that of the auditor, when the matter was fresh. It 
is in his matchless power of satiric characterisation and in the 
brilliant, humorous, allusive dialogue with which all is clothed, 
that Jonson shines above all his competitors and justifies his 
title, the English Aristophanes. We can understand the con- 
temporary success of these plays in the hands of the competent 
fellows of Shakespeare and in those of the clever lads that acted 
them; we can understand, too, how the town must have ac- 
claimed the '"war" and went about from playhouse to play- 
house to hear how Marston would take off Jonson or "what 

2 The best account of the whole matter is that of J. H. Penniman in 
the Introduction to his edition of Poetaster and Satiromastix, Belles 
Lettres Series, Boston, 1913. 


Jonson could say now?" We can likewise comprehend how, 
towards the end, the town wearied of Jonson's arrogance and 
self-righteousness — witness the almost incredible portrait of 
himself which he draws in Asper-Macilentc in Every Man out 
of his Humour — how even the very wealth of his eloquence 
was his undoing, and the palm of victory was awarded, by his 
capricious hearers, to Dekker for his Satiromastix, a warmed- 
over performance, inferior to the least of Jonson's. 

Into the particulars of the " war " and especially into the 
quagmire of personal identification there is happily no need for 
us to trespass. In The Poetaster, Jonson lampooned the in- 
ferior poets of the day whose " petulant styles," he declares, had 
"provoked" him for years "on the stage." The parable is 
that of the virtuous Horace and his friend Virgil at Rome, with 
their incomparable talents and impeccable perfections in the 
high light of contrast with the envy, stupidity and spleen of the 
poetasters, their natural enemies. In a climax more diverting 
than elegant, Marston-Crispinus is represented as cured of his 
" tumorous heats " of calumny against Horace by certain pills 
" of the whitest kind of hellebore " which, acting after their 
kind, relieve him with some struggling of his affected vocabu- 
lary and work an absolute cure. Dekker worked up the reply 
of his Satiromastix by a parody of Jonson's subject, uniting its 
Roman scene very inartificially with a species of chronicle play 
of the time of William Rufus which he appears to have had by 
him. The grossness of his workmanship in this case is best 
discerned in his degradation of Jonson's braggart Tucca into a 
scurrilous bravo. Many interesting surmises have been in- 
dulged in as to Shakespeare's probable attitude among these 
brofls; and some have surmised that he is intended in Virgil, 
the presiding judge of Jonson's court of the poets. _ Others 
have given this place of honour to Jonson's known " friend and 
lover," Chapman. There is a famous allusion to the "war" 
in an academic play called The Return from Parnassus, acted 
at Cambridge in 1602 in which occurs this much-quoted passage: 
" Why here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down ; aye, 
and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow! 
he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow 
Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his 
credit." And the question arises was Shakespeare's " purge " a 
play? and if so, what play? Some have thought it enigmatic 
Troilus and Cressida, the significance, we must fear, to be dis- 


cerned only as in a glass darkly. Others have more wisely 
given up the matter. Shakespeare's comment on the " war," 
which, be it remembered, had come latterly to be a match 
between the adult players and the children's company of the 
queen's chapel, is contained in Hamlet's remarks to Rosenkranz. 
After hearing of the success of " the little eyasses," and the 
terrors of those whom they had lampooned, his thought is only 
for the little actor's welfare and he declares that " their writers 
do them wrong to make them exclaim against their own suc- 
cession," that is, imperil their future as players by thus falling 
out with the adult fellow-members of the profession. Was it 
because of Shakespeare's disapproval of the excesses of this 
dramatic warfare that after Every Man Out of his Humour 
Jonson transferred his satires to the boy players? Satiromastix 
was acted by the Chamberlain's men and therefore with Shake- 
speare's approval. Perhaps, after all, it was Dekker's play that 
was the " purge " wherewith Shakespeare " put down " Jon- 

And now Jonson turned his attention elsewhere, as we 
have already seen, in his " additions " to The Spanish Tragedy, 
which fall within the year 1602, and to the composition of 
Sejanus, acted by Shakespeare's company in 1603. This fine 
tragedy, in its relations to the series of dramas on classical 
historical subjects, we have sufficiently discussed in the last 
chapter. It may be repeated here for emphasis that in his 
tragedies, no less than in his comedies, do the theories of Jon- 
son fall into contrast with the prevalent romantic ideals of his 
day; and that these theories, however they were grounded in 
a recognition of the importance and weight to be attached to the 
example of the ancients, became reasonable, in Jonson's applica- 
tion of them to what he recognised as conditions far other than 
those governing ancient times. And now an even more im- 
portant immediate interest absorbed Jonson. In the later, 
declining years of the old queen, the shadow of her successor 
in the north began to fall upon English affairs. It was this 
that armed the abortive Essex rebellion and cast suspicion on the 
literary tragedies of Daniel and Greville. After the acting of 
Richard 11, by actors of the Shakespeare company, to inspirit 
the Essex conspirators, one Lawrence Fletcher visited King 
James in Scotland with a troupe of English actors and was 
cordially received. Fletcher was not a member of the Cham- 
berlain's company on his first visit to Scotland in 1599; we are 


not quite so sure about his status on a second trip, in i6oi. At 
any rate, in May 1603 letters patent were issued wherein it 
appears that the Lord Chamberlain's company had now become 
" the King's servants " and three names head the list of actors, 
Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare and Richard Bur- 
bage.3 By this thrifty piece of forethought Shakespeare and his 
fellows preserved their prestige in the new reign. Under such 
conditions it is not surprising that Jonson likewise should have 
bestirred himself. We do not know the means by which he 
received an introduction to King James, but we find Jonson in 
rivalry with Daniel in the entertainments of welcome tendered 
to the new sovereign on his royal progress from Scotland to as- 
sume his English crown; and he was also the author, ^ylth 
others, of entertainments celebrating the king's entry into 
London. This was a turning point in Jonson's career. His 
activities were henceforth divided between the court and the 
theatre ; to the former with the author let us first turn. 

The entertainments of royalty smacked of the dramatic from 
time immemorial. We have heard of the dialogue form given 
to speeches of royal welcome by Lydgate in the fifteenth cen- 
tury and of the development of the dramatic element in the 
hands of Heywood into the interlude, forerunner of domestic 
farce and comedy. It is out of an even earlier form of enter- 
tainment that the masque, properly so called, arose, and this 
was the disguising or mumming, a usual pastime very early at 
court and referable, if we are to seek deep enough in the past, 
to some of the most primitive of the customs of the folk, it 
might be easier, as well as more logical, to trace out the growth 
of such an entertainer of royalty as Cornish in Henry Vilis 
court, for example, from the occasional minstrel, whose songs, 
mimicry and inventive pageantry amused Henry s mediaeval pred- 
ecessors than to find in his devices of masking, speech and 
costume' any close relation to true drama. It was to supervise 
these things and the dialogues and interludes that grew with 
them that the office of the revels was raised from an occasional 
function in times of festival into a permanent organisation which 
provided not only for the entertainment of the sovereign in his 
court and on progress, but which came in time to superintend 
the drama at large. The records, moreover, go to show that 
3 The text of this interesting document has often been printed, see 
Hazlitt, English Drama, 38-40. 


masquing, mumming and disguisings in all their varieties were as 
common among the people in mediaeval times as at court. In- 
deed, it is only the place and circumstance of their performance, 
their greater elaboration and their occasional rise into the cate- 
gories of drama and poetry that account for our ioiowing so 
much about the entertainments at court. 

In number, variety, elaboration and poetic beauty the masques 
of Jonson surpass those of all others, and but for him the species 
need hardly be chronicled at the hands of the historian of Eng- 
lish drama. By the time that Jonson came to write them, the 
nature of court entertainments had been fairly well determined, 
though few, except Gascoigne, Sidney, Campion and Daniel 
had done anything memorable in this lesser form of the drama. 
A masque, to be technical, is one of several species of quasi- 
dramatic productions of which an " entertainment," in its strict 
Elizabethan sense, and a "barriers" are two others. The 
nucleus of an " entertainment " is a speech of welcome ; the 
nucleus of a " barriers " is a mock tournament. The " masque " 
exists only because of a dance, as a setting, or frame, so to 
speak, for what we should designate a ball. These terms were 
used with precision by Jonson and most of his contemporaries. 
All involve more or less the dramatic elements of personifica- 
tion, costume, dialogue, music and scenic setting, although the 
masque alone of the three (save for one or two of Jonson's ef- 
forts) became dramatically effective. But the masque^needs a 
closer definition than this; for however it be made up of " a com- 
bination in variable proportions of speech, dance and song, its 
essential feature is a group of dancers, eight, twelve or sixteen, 
called the masquers. These neither speak nor sing, but make 
an imposing show " by their fine presence, their gorgeous cos- 
tumes and artistic posing, grouping and evolutions."* These 
last, which always involve dancing, are premeditated and re- 
hearsed, and they are known as the " entry," the '' mean " and 
the " going out." The unpremeditated dances, joined in by 
the auditors as well as the masquers, are known as the " revels " 
and include galliards, corantos and lavoltas, the popular dances 
of the day. The masquers were always gentlemen, and often 
ladies of the court ; both were usually of high rank. There is 
no record that Queen Elizabeth, though proud of her dancing, 
ever took a part personally in any such entertainment. And 

4 Evans, The English Masque, 1897, p. xxxiv. 


indeed these technical niceties in the masque came to their 
maturity late in her reign. But her father, Henry, had been 
a confirmed masquer in the mummings of his time, and Eliza- 
beth's successor, Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of King 
James, delighted in masques, taking part herself with a bevy 
of her court ladies or witnessing the stately dancing and noble 
bearing of her sons, Prince Henry and Prince Charles, in the 
parts which they also took at times. 

The pageantry and sumptuous costuming of the masque is 
as old as the middle ages. The dances, save for greater in- 
genuity and inventiveness, were not much changed. An obvi- 
ous symbolism, too, was no new thing. The developments 
which mark the Jacobean masque are its superior scenic repre- 
sentation, a matter referable to the talents of the King's archi- 
tect, Inigo Jones, who had been abroad and profited no little 
by his sojourn and study in Italy; and its enhanced poetic and 
dramatic qualities in which Jonson led all his fellows. 

When Jonson turned his attention to the writing of masques, 
at the beginning of King James's reign, he found the general 
form well established in such productions as The Masque of 
Proteus by the lyrist Francis Davison and Campion, the mu- 
sician, 1595. In Daniel's Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, 
1604, the first masque of the new reign, we have the symbolism 
— so characteristic of those entertainments — for exarnple, a 
temple of Peace, erected on the four firm pillars signifying the 
virtues that support the globe of earth ; we have likewise the clas- 
sical allusion and allegory in the familiar figures of goddesses 
and virtues — " Juno in a sky colour mantle . . . figured with 
peacock's feathers, Sibylla," decked as a nun " in black upon 
white," together with song and fitting verse. Jonson observed 
that what was wanted was the infusion of life and dramatic 
spirit into this sort of thing, and to this task he devoted his 
attention, devising for this purpose especially the antimasque by 
means of which he was able to maintain the element of humour 
and comic relief and to add the professional entertainer to the 
masquers, though keeping the two carefully apart. This raised 
the artistic standard of the masque without disturbing the for- 
mal parts and gave the poet endless opportunity to exercise his 
ingenious learning as well as his admirable poetic taste. 

The masques of Jonson range from his Masque of Blackness 
at the opening of 1605 to Chloridia in February, 1631. All 
were presented at court, generally before the king, with careful 


and painstaking rehearsal and elaboration and often at great 
expense. Jensen wrote a few other masques even later, so that 
if we include his several entertainments of welcome to the king 
in 1603, his activity as a writer in this general kind extended 
over mere than thirty years, summing up a total of no less than 
thirty-five pieces, twenty-three of them strictly masques. In- 
deed, the sum total of all other masques, those of Campion, 
Daniel, Marston, Chapman, Beaumont, Browne, Townsend 
and others, his contemporaries, scarcely equal, the half of his; 
and in Jensen's masques alone do we find, habitually united, 
drama, invention and poetry. In the earliest group of them, 
The Masque of Queens, 1 609, stands out conspicuous for its 
happy solution of the many questions which must have arisen 
as to the antimasque. The contrast here is effected by a bevy 
of witches who, rushing forth out of " an ugly hell which 
flaming beneath smoked unto the top of the roof," go through a 
series of grotesque dances, songs and gyrations until driven 
away to their dark abode by the lady masquers, radiant in their 
glittering " house of fame," and personating, each appropriately 
habited, the famous queens of history from Penthesilea and 
Boadicea to " Bel-Anna," royal spouse of King James who 
alone needed neither mask nor disguise. Jensen's earlier 
Masque of Blackness began a new fashion, that of setting the 
end of the presence-chamber with a scene in perspective and 
changing it. In this case a wood was succeeded by a scene of 
the sea, in which billows rose and fell, and the masquers arrived 
in a concave shell. In Hymenaei, the masque which celebrated 
the ill-omened marriage of the young Earl of Essex with Lady 
Frances, daughter of the Earl of Sussex, the lady masquers 
descended on clouds, ushered by Iris and her rainbow, and the 
gentlemen represented an allegory of " humours and affections," 
issuing from a microcosm or golden glebe, figuring man, so 
arranged as to hang apparently in mid-air among clouds and 
turn on an invisible axle. In this masque, Jensen's poetry is at 
its highest level, especially in the exquisite " Epithalamion " 
with which the whole concludes. In a rival masque of Cam- 
pion, in the next year, a feature was the extent and cheiceness 
of the music.® But at this time, Daniel was still Jensen's chief 
rival and his Tethys' Festival, 1610, was a sumptuous masque 
offering the novelties of three changes of scene (one involving 
^Masque at the Marriage of Lord Hayes, celebrated at Whitehall, 


ships moving on the sea), of gold and silver framings for the 
scene, artificial fountains and moving lights, the last so devised 
as to mask the changes of scene. Nor is Daniel's poetry un- 
worthy of these gorgeous settings which, rising in expense to 
£1600, surpassed all that had gone before. 

Into the inventive intricacies of Jonson's masques it is im- 
possible to go at any length in a book of this size. In Love 
Freed from Ignorance, for example, Cupid, bound and beset 
by fools and follies, is rescued by the Muses. Oberon the 
Fairy Prince is preceded by a lively antimasque, conducted by 
several satyrs; and in Love Restored, the antimasque becomes 
a piece of realistic farce in which Robin Goodfellow satirically 
tells of the difficulties to be encountered by a plain man in his 
endeavours to gain access to a masque. It was the custom to 
publish the more important royal masques individually and soon 
after the event. With a zest in which his own taste coincided 
with that of his sovereign, Jonson was wont, in these publica- 
tions not only to describe the action as well as print the text, 
but to discourse, most learnedly and with exact references, con- 
cerning his classical sources and authorities. Indeed never has 
there been so complete a union of poetry and curious learning 
in one man as in Jonson, though it is always to be recalled that 
it was Jonson's pedantry and his coarser humour — for Jonson 
is a very Rabelais at times in this respect — rather than his 

I poetry that received the sanction and admiration of his gross and 

' learned royal master. 

It was in 1613, on the occasion of the marriage of the Prin- 
cess Elizabeth to the Palsgrave, that the Jacobean masque 
reached its height. Jonson, for some reason unknown, did not 
write a masque to celebrate this event ; but Campion, Chapman 
and Beaumont vied, each with the other, in three of the most 
elaborate productions of this kind of which we have any record. 
Campion's was called The Lord's Masque. For it Jones de- 
vised four changes of scene, and it contained two antimasques, 
together w^ith novel musical eflfects worthy of the excellent 
quality of its poetry. Chapman's is a portentous effort. It 
was presented by the gentlemen of the Middle Temple and 
Lincoln's Inn and, according to Chapman's own indignant con- 
fession, was not a success, although preceded by a procession in 
which hundreds of people took part. The Inner Temple and 
Gray's Inn followed, the next day, with Beaumont's masque 
which was borne from Winchester House by water in a gallant 


flotilla, as their rivals in the study of the law had come by 
land. This masque had to be postponed by reason of the fagged 
condition of the court after several days of revelry; but it was 
finally given with success. Beaumont wrote his masque as a 
member of the Inner Temple, not as a hired poet; and it was 
" financed," as we might put it, by Sir Francis Bacon, then 
solicitor general, for the honour of Gray's Inn where he had 
his legal education. Bacon's interest in court entertainments 
was of long standing and is declared, besides this, in the de- 
vising of dumb shows for a Senecan tragedy as far back as 1587, 
in the writing of " speeches" for the Gesta Grayorum of 1595, 
and in the furnishing out of The Masque of Flowers, in 
1614, at a cost of £2000. The dramatic activity of Bacon lies 
wholly within the precincts of Gray's Inn. His essay Of 
Masques and Triumphs should be carefully read by those who 
would know at first hand the great man's opinions of " these 
toyes," and his wise and worldly observations on their practical 
utility in that great game for worldly advancement that he 
played all his life, only to lose his stakes in the end. 

With the new year, 161 5, Jonson was once more established, 
the chief writer of masques for the court, and from Mercury 
Vindicated from the Alchemists to The Fortunate Isles, written 
to celebrate the betrothal of Prince Charles to Henrietta Maria, 
Twelfth Night, 1624, and the last of Jonson's masques in the 
reign of King James, no important celebration occurred at 
court without the poet's helping hand. In two or three of 
these productions, Jonson made so much of the antimasque that 
the masque itself practically disappears. The Masque of 
Christmas, for example, is pure drollery; in it figure such 
personages as Carol, Wassel, Minced-pie and Venus, described 
as " a deaf tire-woman " ; while The Masque of Gipsies, which 
hugely delighted the king and was twice repeated at his re- 
quest, is mere whimsicality and horseplay, however clever, when 
it is not worse. In this period, too, Jonson fell out with his old 
friend and coadjutor, Inigo Jones, declaring to Drummond that 
" when he wanted to express the greatest villain in the world, 
he would call him an Inigo." We do not know the reasons 
for this quarrel or its patching up and subsequent outbreaks. 
It was certainly regrettable; and towards the end, Jones ap- 
pears to have used his influence at court against Jonson when 
the old poet was sorely in need of subsistence. One masque, 
not Jonson's, deserves mention in this place for its poetic beauty 


and a certain cogency of subject-matter, too rare in these occa- 
sional poems. This is Ulysses ami Circe, the work of William 
Browne of Tavistock, the Spenserian pastoralist and lyrist. 
This, too, was a masque of the Inner Temple, of which Browne 
was a member, and it was acted by the templars in 1615. 

In leaving the Jacobean masque, we must keep in mind its 
occasional character and the temporary conditions to which it 
was fitted. With the light and colour of performance, august 
court setting and cogent contemporary allusions, all gone -md 
lost to us, we can only wonder that so much of literarj' interest 
should survive. We find throughout, a persistence of allegory 
which admonishes us of the continuity of English dramatic 
taste from the morality of mediaeval days. The allegory of the 
masque, however, is always artistic, even in Jonson it is rarely 
tinged with the didactic; and, outside of Chapman's one effort 
and some minor exceptions, it was simple and comprehensible 
without effort or study. Another characteristic of the Jacobean 
masque is its profuse employment and continued adhesion to 
classical allusions and personages, for the most part obvious to 
the cultivated man, however a sealed book to the unlettered. 
We might readily, in this, overestimate the culture prevalent in 
the court of King James, did we not remember that all edu- 
cation came, in those days, by way of the classics and recall 
that the use of such imagery and example was a settled man- 
nerism of the time. Lastly, it is not to be denied that the 
elaborate setting and rnise en scene of the masque much affected 
the contemporary' drama. The plays from 1608 or 16 10 on 
are full of "masques": the "antic dance of twelve satyrs" 
in The Winters Tale, the betrothal masque with its classical 
goddesses in The Tempest, besides the antimasque in the same 
play of " strange shapes," to mention no others. The Two 
Noble Kinsmen appears to have borrowed the idea of Beau- 
mont's antimasque in his Masque of 161 3, including the 
taborer, the bavian and five wenches with their morris dance. 
Far more important was the effect of the masque on the stag- 
ing of popular plays, although of this we have less evidence than 
we should like and the most notable effects come later. 

Leaving the masque of King Charles's time to the future and 
going back to the regular drama, in the year 1605, Jonson re- 
turned to the writing of comedy with his new court prestige 
i about him. To this he was not improbably drawn by the 


current success of Thomas Middleton in his vivacious and 
satirical comedies of London life. We have already met with 
the localized comedy of the city as represented in Dekker's 
Shoemakers' Holiday, that buoyant picturing of the tradesman's 
daily life dashed with romance, and with the lively personages 
of comedies such as the Two Angry Women of Abington. 
Middleton's art is of a somewhat different type. He is as 
realistic as any of his predecessors ; if question on this score arise, 
he may be declared the most realistic of Elizabethan writers of 
comedy; but his attitude, while invariably falling short of that 
of the moralist, is inevitably that of the satirist. In this last 
he is at one with Jonson ; but Jonson was nothing if not a 
moralist. Perhaps we may best put it thus: Dekker is a 
realist seeking often with kindliness of spirit or his dash of 
romance to lighten the inevitable sadness that follows the know- 
ing of things human as they actually are. Middleton is a 
man of the world, cynical about realities, without being in the 
least concerned to improve them. Jonson's is the moralist's 
point of view, outraged by the prevalence of folly and evil, 
attacking them valorously, bitterly disclosing the incongruities 
of human professions, tempered in his zeal only by his passion- 
ate admiration for intellect and intellectual cleverness. Out 
of these aspects of life came three kinds of comedy — though 
the lines that distinguish them are not to be drawn too sharply: 
the comedy of every day life, life seen and delineated simply; 
the comedy of that same life, viewed more or less satirically, 
best known as the comedy of manners, and Jonson's variety 
of this last, the comedy of humours in which more than in the 
others is the method that of caricature and the impetus the 
moralist's scaeva indignatio. 

Thomas Middleton was a slightly older man than Jonson. 
Educated at Cambridge and at Gray's Inn, Middleton was 
rather better bred than Dekker and Heywood and to all ap- 
pearances, less a victim of bohemianism and poverty. The 
range of his work includes pamphlets and city-pageants as well 
as dramas and even masques. He began his theatrical career 
toward the end of Elizabeth's reign and with Henslowe in 
association with Munday, Webster and Dekker; and he joined 
the last, in 1604, in an entertainment to the newly arrived 
king. Not impossibly it was his conjunction with the same 
dramatist, in The Honest Whore, that brought Middleton into 


repute, though several of his plays have been dated earlier.' 
The most striking event in the dramatist s life was the per- 
formance of his notorious political satire The Game at Chess, 
in 1624, some three years before his death. Prmce Charles 
had just returned with Buckingham from a fruitless errand 
to Spain in search of a wife, and Spanish pride, delay and 
subterfuge had at last forced even King James to recede from 
his darling project, an alliance with Spain. At this moment, 
Middleton placed his satire on the stage m which, under the 
disguise of a game between the white English chessmen and the 
black Spaniards, not only were ambassadors and dignitaries ot 
the church figured forth, but the royalty of both countries 
Such " an indiscretion " was not to go unnoticed. On complaint 
of the Spanish ambassador the play was " stayed the actors 
summoned before the privy council and severally reprimanded. 
Middleton himself only escaped arrest by contriving not o 
be found." It has been doubted if the English court was really 
as displeased as appears by the records. But we return to the 
earlier and more distinctive work of Middleton His comedies 
of manners range from Michaelmas Term in 1604 to No Wtt 
no Help like a Woman's, 1613, and exactly correspond with 
Jonson's period of renewed activity in comedy. The features 
of the Middletonian comedy of London manners — besides the 
two just mentioned, A Trick to Catch the Old One, A Mad 
World My Masters, Your Five Gallants, A Chaste Maid 
in Cheapside for example — are remarkably constant.^ Certain 
figures recur with a regularity as certain as their variety is un- 
expected. The dissolute heir, going the pace, excellent at heart 
but guilty of much that needs forgiveness, the hard niggardly 
usurer, tricky, vicious and generally overreached, the raw col- 
lege lad who knows little of books and far less of the world, the 
clever, intriguing Abigail, none too virtuous herself and serving 
a merry open-hearted heroine none too virtuous either — these 
with the despicable husband dupe and a variety of serving men 
make up the dramatis personae of Middletonian comedy. When 
we add that all is done with ease and a certain competent grace, 
without the least assumption of superiority over the auditor 
and with a complete absorption of the personality of the author 
^ Blurt Master Constable, for example, 1601 or 1602; and The Old 
Law in a supposed earlier version even 1599. 


in his work, we can comprehend Middleton's easy success in 
his time. 

Obviously Jonson's comedies are made of sterner stuff. He 
returned to the popular stage, save for Sejanus, In Eastward 
Ho in which he accepted the collaboration of Marston and 
Chapman. The title of this comedy is referable to that of a 
predecessor, Westward Ho, the work of Dekker and Webster, 
1603; and it was followed by Northward Ho, by the same 
authors, a year or two after the play in which Jonson was con- 
cerned. The first two comedies were named from the familiar 
cries of the wherrymen on the Thames as they plied eastward 
to London bridge or westward to the politer precincts of West- 
minster. The two plays of Dekker and Webster are of 
the most pronounced Middletonian type, quite outdoing Middle- 
ton, it is fair to state, at his worst and making perilous the glib 
assertions of the historians of the drama concerning the de- 
terioration of Carolan morals from those of the elder age. East- 
ward Ho is a very different production, and curiously enough, 
although the work of the three most strenuous playwrights 
of the age, really easier in manner and more perspicuous in 
plot than the unaided work of any one of them. Eastward 
Ho tells the universal story of the contrasted careers of the in- 
dustrious and the idle apprentice with the amusing group of 
people about them that assist more particularly in the down- 
ward progress of Quicksilver, the idler. The personages of this 
delectable old comedy stand out with admirable distinctness: the 
honest goldsmith, Touchstone, his silly wife and sillier daughter, 
the latter with her head full of romances, the contrasted 'pren- 
tice lads, the good boy tiresomely estimable in his bourgeois vir- 
tues, Sir Pctronel Flash with his imaginary castle. Seagull with 
his tales of far away Virginia, all is easily and well done, with 
just enough of the moralist's consciousness to give the play a 
universal application. A somewhat pointed allusion to the 
ubiquity of the Scotch, who had followed their king, a needy 
horde clamorous for place, caused the arrest and imprisonment 
for a time of both Jonson and Chapman. Marston, really thd 
offender, escaped. This allusion, though later expunged, as- 
sured the popularity of the comedy on the stage and caused 
likewise the publication of three issues of Eastward Ho in 
the year 1605. 

Jonson's next comedy in point of date was Volpone or the 


Fox acted in 1606. Volpone offers a fitting transition from the 
personal satire of The Poetaster to the more genial humour of 
The Silent Woman and The Alchemist. Not that there is 
anything genial In Volpone. but that there the satire is general- 
ised Into a consummate study In villainy. In point of fact this 
story of the wicked Venetian grandee, undone by his ovvn 
subtlety and chicanery, Is pervaded by a spirit of absolute mis- 
trust of mankind and there is scarcely a virtuous personage 
in it. Jonson's philosophy of life, it would seem, was of an 
extreme simplicitv, and presentable in the form of a dilemma. 
There are two kinds of men In the world for Jonson, the 
knaves and the fools, those that prey and those that are preyed 
upon The fools are commonly laughable but contemptible; 
the knaves deserve the righteous man's castigation, though often 
truly admirable in their wit and forgivable for their cleverness. 
Who would be a fool especially in a world of knaves? As to 
Volpone, it is truly a question (as in Shakespeare s Troi/w^fln^ 
Cressida if for a somewhat different reason) whether we have 
here a comedy or not. The punishment which is justly enough 
meted out to Volpone and his scoundrelly creature Mosca, 
seems less dependent on their crimes among rascals nearly as 
bad as themselves than upon the accident of their division and 
want of a dominating cleverness. None the less, for its well- 
knit and original plot, Its vigorous characterisation, ani- 
mated conduct and brilliant dialogue, Volpone must be es- 
teemed one of the best of Jonson's plays In the titanic 
farce Epicoene or The Silent Woman, ^^^9, and in The 
Alchemist, acted in the next year, Jonson reached the height ot 
his originality and Ingeniousness of plot and broadened into a 
genialitv and capacity for mere fun that Is nearer his earliest 
dramatic success. It would be Impossible to conceive of comedy 
interest more happily sustained than in the successive surprises 
of these admirable comedies, and we learn without surprise 
that they captured the stage and held It, with Volpone and 
Every Man in his Humour, for four generations. It is char- 
acteristic of Jonsonlan comedy that, with all its^ merits and 
Ingenuity, It is usually so constructed that the entire group ot 
personages is set In motion by one dynamic character. It is 
Brainworm's knowledge of the plans of his masters, father and 
son, and his knavery that runs Every Man in his Humour; it 
is Delphlne, playing upon his uncle's hatred of noise in I he 
Silent Woman, that evokes that extraordinary personage, Lpi- 


coene, with all the fun and folly of this laughable farce. So, 
too, in The Alchemist, all depends on the resourceful, capable 
and absolutely immoral Face who fascinates the reader, as he 
fascinates his master in the play, into forgiving a campaign of 
successful roguery that deserved only condign punishment. The 
vitality, liveliness, rapidity and humour of the best scenes of 
these incomparable plays of Jonson remained unequalled in 
English comedy and served as examples to generations to come. 
With The Silent Woman and The Alchemist Jonson became 
a convert to the superiority of English scene and English per- 
sonage for the comedy of manners. Both are so set; and upon 
the republication of Every Man in his Humour, in his folio of 
1616, he carefully revised that comedy so as to transfer the 
scene from Venice to London, a change materially for the better. 
To this English practice the poet adhered to his last great 
comedy the Gargantuan Bartholomew Fair which gives us a 
conception of the Elizabethan forerunner of a London bank- 
holiday, a picture large, gross, humorous, coarse and boister- 
ous, but not unworthy the pen of this intimate knower and 
satirist of the life about him. Jonson wrote other plays; but 
they belong neither to the time nor to the full-flowing genius 
that begot these master comedies. 

Among dramatists, his contemporaries, none so resembled 
Jonson in his tastes and theories as his friend, George Chap- 
man, the famous translator of Homer. Chapman was a much 
older man than Jonson, born as far back as 1559. And he 
appears to have taken up the drama, at first at least, as no very 
serious addition to his more important literary work as a trans- 
lator and general poet. He must have been quite thirty-five years 
of age when he produced his first comedies, although it is a moot 
question as to whether he may not, after all, have preceded 
Jonson in the employment of the word " humour " in the 
Jonsonian sense, if not in the actual writing of comedies, more 
or less of the type.'^ The comedies of Chapman range from 
several dubious entries and allusions of Henslowe, as early 
as 1595, to the romantic comedies The Gentleman Usher and 
Monsieur D' Olive, both printed in 1 606. All the others are 
comedies of manners almost strictly at times of " humours " ; 

■^ Cf. Henslowe's mention of a "comedy of humours," in May, 1597, 
ed. Greg, p. 52 and elsewhere and see a discussion of the subject in 
Elizabethan Drama, i, 460. 


and they extend from the trivial Blind Beggar of Alexandria, 
1596, with its preposterous disguises and confusion between 
trickery and felony, to All Fools, 1599, esteemed by no less 
an authority than Swinburne one of the best comedies m the 
language. Chapman's source here is patently the Heautonti- 
morumenos of Terence, and he has worked up an intrigue and 
counter-intrigue in which his ingenuity is only equalled by his 
wit and originality. Considering that All Fools is free from 
the slightest suspicion of any Jonsonian intention to preach, we 
may affirm that it is the best example of an English comedy 
conceived and carried out on the lines of Roman comedy. 
While less successful, A Humorous Day's Mirth, and more espe- 
cially, The Widow's Tears, are equally diverting. In the 
latter' is dramatized with much gusto the scandalous story of 
the Ephesian Matron, who was won, in an incredibly short 
time and literally on her husband's tomb, from the abandon- 
ment of bereaved widowhood to a delighted acceptance of the 
blandishments of a new wooer. This is only an extreme ex- 
ample of Chapman's habitual attitude of contempt tovyards 
woman which has been thought referable to personal experience, 
but which more probably he caught, like Jonson in lesser degree, 
from the prevalent atmosphere of Latin literature. 

From what has just been written it is clear that Chapman s 
idea of comedy, even more strictly than Jonson's, was that^ of 
Plautus and Terence. Each of Chapman's comedies is im- 
pelled by the impetus of one dynamic personage — Tharsalio, 
the irresistible wooer in The Widow's Tears, Rinaldo, the 
roguish mischief-maker in All Fools — Sind it is his business^as 
it has been wittily said, " to set all the rest by the ears. The 
intricacy of Chapman's intrigue is often bewildering, although 
the action is not always well sustained. The personages, too, 
while lively and entertaining enough in the dialogue, are little 
distinguished and scarcely one of them is individually memora- 
ble. Obviously Chapman wrote his comedies for a livelihood, 
and he seems to have fared none too well with them. To his 
tragedies we have seen that he brought a more strenuous effort. 
His ambition was to become famous as " Georgius Chapmanus 
Homeri Metaphrastes." That fame he achieved and deserved, 
but he is not to be forgotten in the distinguished list of play- 
wrights who added excellent comedies to their more serious 

dramatic work. ,-,■,> c 

From an historical point of view, Chapman s scholar s use ot 


Roman comedy popularised on the contemporary stage, may 
be regarded as the climax of a long preparation in which we 
begin with the humanists and schoolmasters, imitators of the 
Roman poets, and meet with Gascoigne's Supposes, derived 
through an Italian intermediary, and Shakespeare's Comedy of 
Errors by the way. At the universities Plautine comedy con- 
tinued in high repute, sometimes direct in its derivation, some- 
times imitated from Italian imitators. None of these many 
plays are important to a history of the popular drama, how- 
ever interesting many of them are in themselves. Typical ex- 
amples are Pedantius (variously ascribed to Anthony Wing- 
field or to Edward Forcett) 1581, and the clever trilogy of 
" Parnassus plays," 1601-02, from which we have already 
quoted. Both were of Cambridge. Another still later Cam- 
bridge comedy was Ignoramus, by George Ruggle, acted in 
161 5 and immensely to the delight of King James who revelled 
in its witty speech and coarseness. This production is imitated 
from an Italian play of Batista della Porta entitled La Trap- 
polaria which in turn owes no little to the Pseudolus of Plautus. 
This was a familiar derivation and sets one to wondering if, 
after all, some of the intricate intrigue and the narrow range 
of the personages of Chapman's comedies may not be found, 
like so much else, in the enormous unread minor dramatic 
literature of the Italian Renaissance period. As to Jonson, we 
find an interesting parallel in the hints derived from Giordano 
Bruno's // Candelaio which he worked up into the fabric of 
The Alchemist. His later use of Machiavelli's story of Bel- 
fagor is less in accordance with his usual method. Jonson 
prided himself on his originality. Ordinarily it was his wide 
reading in the classics that supplied him with the suggestions 
out of which he developed his original plots, although his posi- 
tion on the subject is clear from his own words where he de- 
clares that he regards the power " to convert the substance and 
riches of another poet to his own use " as an endowment only 
second to " natural wit." ^ 

Chapman, Jonson and Middleton were the chief contributors, 
in the order mentioned, to the new comedy of manners, the 
range of which was from the lower toned domestic comedy to 
the heightened caricature of the comedy of humours. But 

8 See his Timber or Discoveries, 1642, on this subject and his theories 
of composition. 


they were by no means alone. Chapman's closest imitator was 
William Percy who left behind him half a dozen amateurish 
comedies, dating about 1601. Only two of them have seen 
print, and only one apparently was ever acted. A better comedy 
of much the same date is the anonymous Sir Giles Goosccap in 
which a story suggestive of that of Troilus and Cressida is en- 
livened with a group of irregular humourists, more in the man- 
ner of Jonson than in that of Chapman. The borrowings of 
title which Jonson's use of the word " humour " begot, we 
have already noted. Jonson's most successful immediate dis- 
ciple, until we come to the days of Brome, was Nathaniel Field 
who had been among the several lads kidnapped by Gyles, and 
pressed into the profession of acting by an abuse of the queen's 
license " to take up singing boys " for the royal chapel of which 
Gyles was then master. Jonson taught the young actor Latin 
and how to make plays, and Field became notable as a player, 
especially, at first, in women's parts, and later as a dramatist 
as well. The best work of Field is contained in Woman is a 
Weathercock and Amends for Ladies, both on the stage by the 
date of the death of Shakespeare. The following of Middle- 
ton was even more general. Resembling his method in comedy 
though preceding him in point of time, is Haughton's lively 
Englishmen for my Money, 1 598, in which the foreigner is 
satirized in a manner much to the taste of the groundlings. 
The Fair Maid of the Exchange, i6o2, an excellent play, is 
more like Heywood in its touch of pathos and serious intent. 
With Edward Sharpham's Fleir and Cupid's Whirligig, 1 606 
and 1607, we are in the irresponsible atmosphere of the satirical 
comedy of manners once more, impertinent and shameless rather 
than clever; while in Lodowick Barrey's Ram Alley or Merry 
Tricks, published two years later, we have a vigorous and well- 
written comedy of low London, however broad of speech, that 
equals Middleton almost at his best and preserves, take it all 
in all, a wholesomer tone than is usually his. This play en- 
joyed great popularity, and so did Joshua Cooke's Tu Quoque 
known as Greene's Tu Quoque from the clever hit that the 
comedian, Thomas Greene, made in the role of Bubble, a 
humorous serving man. Another well-known actor in comedy, 
Robert Armin, is the author of Two Maids of More clack 
(Morlake), printed, in 1 609, a similarly merry production, 
full of disguise, bustle and merry intrigue. 

We have deferred John Marston's comedies of manners to 


this late place in this chapter, dealing with the classical and 
satirical reaction, because, despite his position as a nondramatic 
satirist and his part in the satirical sword's play of the war of 
the theatres, his attitude of egotist and doctrinaire, there is 
always more of the romantic spirit in him than in either Jon- 
son, Chapman or even Middleton, except where William Row- 
ley was Middleton's collaborator. Besides his part in East- 
ward Ho, Marston is the author of five comedies in all of which 
save one, the scene is Italy. As the country of his mother, 
whose language he evidently knew well, Italy may be imagined 
less remote to Marston than to many of his fellow playwrights, 
and his recognition of the " romance " of some of his subjects 
may have been less than ours. Marston's most characteristic 
comedy is The Malcontent, acted about 1600. This is a well- 
knit, original and perspicuous drama of intrigue, involving the 
disguise of a Hamlet-like prince in the court of the usurper of 
his dukedom and the consequent test of the character and 
loyalty of certain of his subjects. The general theme and the 
sombre tone of this able play suggest Measure for Measure. 
Like this play of Shakespeare, his Troilus and Cressida and Jon- 
son's Volpone we have here rather tragicomedy than comedy 
although none of these dramas end in violence. Lighter in 
touch are What You Will, 1601, and The Parisitaster or Fawn, 
1606. In the latter the device of The Malcontent, a prince 
in disguise, is employed to a less serious purpose; the former 
dramatizes an entertaining story of Boccaccio, afterwards em- 
ployed by Shirley in his Witty Fair One, in which a clever 
young woman wins for herself a husband by making her own 
father the go-between while pretending dutifully to confess 
to him her lover's aggressive, but purely imaginary, courtship. 
Marston's work is exceedingly unequal. At his best, in poetry, 
originality of situation, inventiveness and power to portray 
character, he deserves his place beside the greatest dramatists 
of his day, at his worst, he sinks below Middleton to the buf- 
foonery and indecency of Dekker or Webster in the lowest of 
their comic vein or to a bombast and noisiness in tragic heroics 
which is absolutely his own. Perhaps Marston's two dramas 
of this lighter type might be best called comedies of manners in 
romantic disguise. The type became no uncommon one. 

In the preceding paragraphs we have endeavoured to segre- 
gate, for the sake of clearness, some of the more striking ele- 
ments in popular Elizabethan comedy that stood in contrast 


with the romantic trend of the age and created a reaction 
against it. To this we have added an account of the Jacobean 
masque, Jonson's other distinctive contribution to the drama in 
the reign of King James. To the comedies of Jonson, Chap- 
man and Middleton were added those of Marston, notwith- 
standing a certain incurable romanticism that is his, because his 
satire, his pose and his self -consciousness, all are reactionary. 
The collaborators in Eastward Ho were men of a more 
scholarly type than any of the popular dramatists who had 
preceded them, and they applied their scholarship in a manner 
unparalleled to their writing. All of them had theories about 
poetry and the stage; all, too, were inclined to take a more or 
less satirical view of life and to affect a greater or less inde- 
pendence of present conditions and popular demands. This is 
why even the success of Jonson was uncertain,^ now carrying 
court and city away, together with his adored " judicious few," 
by sheer force of genius, at other times provoking retaliation 
from rivals not his equals, which brought, not to him, but to 
them the palm, or gaining only that cool " success of esteem " 
which is more chilling to the ardency of genius than opposition. 
Were we looking for a generic phrase by which to designate 
these three writers collectively it might be difficult to find one 
more appropriate than the school of conscious effort. For not 
only had all three decided theories as to how to write a play, a 
satire or a masque, but they seem to have tried hard, each in 
his way, to carry them out, to be original in story, thought, 
personage and phrase; and they agreed likewise in a certain 
disdain of efforts elsewhere which they esteemed not so strenu- 
ous, so consistent or so in accord with precedent and experience 
as their own. Jonson's penchant for the unities, which he was, 
for the most part, too sensible to abuse (although there are 
two trials of the same culprits for the same offence in one day 
in Volpone), Chapman's limitation of comedy to a logical de- 
velopment of Plautine character and situation, these are illus- 
trations in point; and so in lesser degree is Marston's trans- 
fer to his plays of whole episodes of classical origin, such as the 
wooing of the Ephesian widow from Petronius Arbiter. 
Neither Marston nor Chapman take any rank of importance in 
the masque, each producing but one, neither of them remark- 
able. This was Jonson's undisputed field which he owed, as 
much as his success on the popular stage, to his^ industry, his 
ingenuity and his adaptation to his purposes of his wide classi- 


cal reading. Marston's dramatic career was short; no play of 
his dates later than 161 3. We do not know when Marston 
took holy orders. He was presented with the living of Christ 
Church in Hampshire in 1616, which he resigned in 1631, 
dying three years later in London, Chapman long survived 
his dramatic career which closed, so far as we know, about 
the time of the death of Shakespeare. Chapman is dimly trace- 
able, however, in an alleged collaboration with Shirley in the 
early thirties. He died also in 1634. Jonson survived his 
fellows, leaving behind him the double achievement of a repute 
unparalleled as a writer of masques for the entertainment of 
royalty and a name in the popular drama, second alone to that of 



In the year 1647, when England was in the throes of civil 
war and Charles had already surrendered to the victorious 
Parliament, a handsome folio came from the press entitled 
" Comedies and Tragedies written by Francis Beaumont and 
John Fletcher, gentlemen." This edition was appropriately 
edited by James Shirley, till recently, when the theatres were 
closed, the successor to their popularity ; and it contained thirty- 
four plays, as the title added, " never before printed." A sec- 
ond folio edition of 1679 reprinted the first with the addition 
of all the plays which had been previously printed in separate 
quarto form under the name of either author. This raised the 
number to fifty; and since that time some half-dozen dramas 
have been added to the list. The assembling of plays in col- 
lective editions was, up to the time of the death of Shakespeare, 
a thing practically unknown. The posthumous collection of 
an author's works, such as the Caxton Chaucer for example or 
more recently the folio of Spenser, 1608, even, was rare; al- 
though men like Daniel, and Drayton, especially, were always 
tinkering with their poetry in new collections and revisions 
which their popularity in their time seems to have demanded. 
It was in the very year of Shakespeare's death, 161 6, that Ben 
Jonson collected and published his own works, the plays and 
all which he had written up to that time; a second volume 
followed only several years after his death, in 1640-42. A 
strong piece of evidence as to Shakespeare's contemporary popu- 
larity is to be found in the speedy collection of his plays In the 
folio of 1623, only seven years after his death, together with 
the demand for a second edition of this large and expensive 
book within nine years of the first. A second complete edi- 
tion of Jonson with all his repute, was not issued until just 
fifty years after the first. As to the other Elizabethans, save 
for the publication by a belated enthusiast of Six Court Corne- 


dies of John Lyly in 1632, there is no other example of the 
collection of a dramatist's work either within his lifetime or 
soon after, until we come to the days of the Commonwealth 
when, there being no other use for plays, an occasional collec- 
tion appeared, like that of Shirley's Six New Plays or Five New 
Plays by Brome. Marlowe, Chapman, Middleton, Webster, 
Massinger and all the rest remained uncollected — to say 
nothing of editing — until modern critical times. Shakespeare, 
Jonson and " Beaumont and Fletcher " stand in this respect 
alone, appreciated and acclaimed each on the stage of his time, 
to be read as well as acted in the next generation and in many 
to come. 

Personal details as to this famous literary partnership, " Beau- 
mont and Fletcher," are sadly wanting as usual in dealing with 
our old dramatists. This much, however, we know. Fletcher 
was the older, born in 1579, probably at Rye in Sussex where 
his father was then a minister. Richard Fletcher the father, 
afterwards rose through several preferments to become Bishop 
of London; but fell into disgrace with Queen Elizabeth be- 
cause of a second marriage, — an act which the queen abhorred 
— and died poor. John Fletcher received his education at 
Bene't college, Cambridge, but there is no trace of him there 
nor of his earlier literary associations in London. It seems 
likely that he soon came to know Jonson and it has been thought 
by some that through Jonson, Fletcher became acquainted with 
Beaumont, a supposition altogether likely. Fletcher appears 
to have written dramas for a livelihood; his many collabora- 
tions and his industry go to show it. Besides his enduring friend- 
ship with Beaumont, we know that he was closely associated 
later with Massinger. Jonson esteemed Fletcher and praised 
him ; later poets, such as Sir Aston Cockayne attempted a vin- 
dication of his authorship. From all that we can gather, 
Fletcher must have been a man of a singularly modest, cheerful 
and unaggressive nature. He died of the plague in 1625 while 
still at the height of his dramatic activity. Francis Beaumont 
was some five years Fletcher's junior, born in 1584 or^ 1585. 
a younger son of Sir Francis Beaumont of Grace-dieu, Leicester- 
shire, a justice of the common pleas. Beaumont was educated 
at Broadgates Hall, Oxford, and became a member of the Inner 
Temple in 1600. He became intimate with Jonson, writing 
commendatory verses on Volpone in 1603 and on other plays, 
and imitating the Jonsonian comedy of humours unmistakably 


in The Woman Hater, acted in 1606. Beaumont was certainly 
less dependent on the theatre than Fletcher. His personality 
and position in life gained for him the respect and esteem of 
his contemporaries, even Jonson deferring to his judgment in 
a manner remarkable considering Jonson's intractable temper 
and the disparity of Beaumont's age. Beaumont evidently 
shared Jonson's independent attitude and contempt for the opin- 
ion of the vulgar, as he appears to have shared somewhat his 
theories as to drama. Another association of Beaumont's, that 
with Sir Francis Bacon, has already been considered. Beau- 
mont married a lady of some fortune, but survived only three 
years, dying in March 161 6, a month before Shakespeare. 
Beaumont appears to have been little solicitous of the fame of 
authorship. He apparently sanctioned the use of his name on 
the title of his masque only. But there is abundant proof in 
his own writings and in those of his contemporaries that he 
was an intimate associate of the dramatists and men of letters 
of his time, appreciating to the full " the things we have seen 
done at the Mermaid," although he lived not to the days of 
" the Sun and the Triple Tun " nor to subscribe to Jonson's 
later leges comnvales. 

With ten years of authorship at best and with a majority 
of the plays, included in the Beaumont and Fletcher folio, acted 
for the first time certainly after his death, it is obvious that 
Beaumont could have had no very large share in the volume. 
Even contemporaries to its publication protested against the 
assignment to him of so important a place. Sir Aston Cockayne 
especially informing us that these dramas were substantially the 
" sole issues of sweet Fletcher's brain " and incidentally that 
Massinger had been a collaborator in some of them. Modern 
scholarship has been busy with this interesting question and sub- 
stantial results have been reached, however minor points and 
individual plays may still remain matters of debate. It is not 
necessary in a work of this scope to set forth the methods of 
this inquiry into the problem of divided authorship. Suffice 
it to say that after a due consideration of external evidence, 
date of performance, derivation of plot, conteniporary al- 
lusion and the like, the question resolves itself into a dis- 
crimination of the qualities of style, characteristics of versifica- 
tion, conception of personage and general attitude discernible 
in contrasted work of the two authors. Starting from a play 
avowedly that of Fletcher and of Beaumont respectively un- 


aided — the former's Faithful Shepherdess, for example, the 
latter's Woman Hater — these are the main points of distinc- 
tion that have been formulated. Beaumont's is clearly the more 
conservative nature, and the more ready to act in conformity 
with literary and dramatic usages then in vogue. This it is that 
causes him to adhere to the stronger, more strictly decasyllabic 
versification of his master Jonson while phrasing with freedom 
and using run-on lines after the manner of his immediate time. 
To Beaumont has been assigned a more serious attitude towards 
life than is customarily Fletcher's, together with the higher 
moral sense which arms his satire with the sanction, if not 
quite of the moralist, at least with that of the thoughtful man. 
For Beaumont has been claimed, too, the more delicate senti- 
ment, a higher order of humour, truer pathos and the greater 
power in tragedy. Fletcher, on the other hand, is more inven- 
tive in his art and more eclectic in his practice. He placed be- 
fore him the ideal of a drama that should be at once novel and 
entertaining, and he was intent on this not on theories of the 
pedant or the moralist. He found in contrast of character and 
picturesqueness of situation effective steps towards the realisa- 
tion of this ideal, and in his loosely knit verse an admirably 
rapid, colloquial, plastic and musical substitute alike for prose 
and for the older more formal blank verse. The lithe, supple 
blank-verse of Fletcher is his most distinctive " note." In it 
he readily admits additional syllables, especially at the end of 
the line, giving it what is technically called a hendecasyllabic 
character; but to preserve the sense of rhythm, the pause is 
commonly marked at the conclusion of each line, far more so 
than in the current practice of the moment, the later verse of 
Shakespeare for example. Indubitably Fletcher's nature, like 
his verse and sometimes rambling and repetitious style, is lighter 
than that of Beaumont. Fletcher has been designated ready, 
clever, offhand, hurried and careless. He was all^ these things 
sometimes. But he was likewise inventive, ingenious, poetical 
and possessed of no small insight into human character and emo- 

The results of modern inquiry into the relative parts, con- 
tributed by Beaumont and Fletcher, respectively and jointly, to 
the mass of some fifty-two plays that bear their names, may be 
summed up as follows: Beaumont wrote one of these plays 
alone, Fletcher almost as certainly some fifteen independently. 
Their collaboration seems certain in eight or nine, while some- 


thing over a score, formerly thought their joint work, are now- 
regarded as Fletcher's in co-operation with some other author, 
and in five or six m.ore, apparently neither Fletcher nor Beau- 
mont had any appreciable share. To these is to be added 
Henry VlII in which the hand of Fletcher as well as Shake- 
speare's is now universally acknowledged, A Very fVoman, 
formerly considered Massinger's but in which Fletcher once 
more had his share, and the fine tragedy of Barnevelt, printed 
only in our late times, by the same two authors. In collabora- 
tion with Massinger, Fletcher thus appears in sixteen plays, 
about twice as many as those in which Beaumont worked with 
him. Elsewhere Fletcher co-operated with Jonson, Field, 
Tourneur, William Rowley and even with Daborne, if Hen- 
slowe is to be trusted.^ 

Without further distinctions we may now turn to the Fletch- 
erian drama to examine wherein it marks a development out 
of what had gone before. Beaumont began, as we have seen, 
under the aegis of Jonson as the " humours " of The Woman 
Hater and the satire of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, 
which is largely if not wholly his, sufficiently go to show. This 
last, a delightful dramatic satire, it will be remembered, contains 
a burlesque of the popular dramatic romance of impossible ad- 
venture in which the hero is always a citizen of London and the 
civic virtues are extolled. It is not surprising that Beaumont's 
picture was too true to be pleasing to auditors who loved ** the 
tossing of the pikes " in The Four Prentices and The Adven- 
tures of Dick fflttington actually dramatized in a play now 
lost. It used to be thought that Beaumont's Knight belonged 
wholly to the order de la Mancha. But the resemblances be- 
tween his play and Don Quixote are superficial and have been 
pursued too far. If Beaumont began thus in " humours " and 
burlesque, it is equally clear that Fletcher's first example was 
the Middletonian comedy of manners. The difficulties in the 
chronology of the Beaumont-Fletcher plays are far greater than 
those which concern Shakespeare's; and the subject is complicated 
by the incessant revision to which popular plays, like the ma- 
jority of theirs, were subject, so that first performance becomes 
at times a matter quite irrecoverable. None the less we recog- 

1 For this appraisement I am indebted to the excellent chapter on 
Beaumont and Fletcher by G. C. Macaulay, in the Cambridge History 
of English Literature, vi, 115, 116. 


nise at once in comedies such as Wit at Several Weapons, The 
Scornful Lady, Monsieur Thomas and Wit Without Money, 
which date between 1608 and 1614, admirable specimens of the 
London comedy of manners, beginning altogether in the manner 
of Middleton, but surpassing him in vivacit}', clever plotting and 
in personages, admirably conceived and discriminated. Mon- 
sieur Thomas, a young scapegrace returned from Paris, in a 
dilemma between a father who would have him wild and a 
betrothed who declares that she will none of him unless he 
mend his ways; Valentine who regards an approved ability to 
live by his wits, the first essential of a free man, both are ex- 
cellent departures within the range of that darling of the 
comedy of manners, the engaging spendthrift. Whilst in the 
capable, witty and high spirited Mary, more than a match for 
her travelled Thomas, and in Lady Heartwell, as outspoken and 
as scornful of conventions as Valentine himself, Fletcher created 
a new and exceedingly pleasing type, the spirited, resourceful 
heroine, with which he rings many a merry chime in subsequent 
comedies. Even the usurers, the servants and the ninnies, 
Fletcher coins over again in a new mint, giving individ- 
ualit}"^ to personages with an easy naturalness that conceals his 
art and disarms the judicial frown of criticism. 

But these comedies, strictly of London life, represent only a 
part of the generous contribution of Fletcher and his compeers 
to the comedy of manners. A larger, and, for the most part, 
a later group are those that, laying the scene in foreign places, 
in Italy, France or Spain, exhibit elements more or less romantic. 
Indeed, it might not be difficult for the reader of Beaumont and 
Fletcher to arrange their comedies in an order that would 
display a gradation from these scenes of London life to dramas 
in which the interest is almost wholly romantic; and the scale 
might be continued through the tragicomedies to the tragedies. 
I say " almost wholly romantic," because there are few plays of 
these authors which do not contain either scenes of comedy 
or at least some comic and realistic personages. This is a matter 
often forgotten when we speak of the romantic poets, Shake- 
speare and Fletcher. Romantic they are, for they see things in 
the mists of beauty and remoteness or in the glory that lights 
up common objects and makes them matters of shadow and 
light, not of rule and plummet. But the romantic dramatist 
is not among the great, if his power of vision does not like- 
wise extend to the discerning of things as they are when there 


is need of this first essential of literary, as of all other, art. 
The realism of Fletcher is no small part of his dramatic effec- 
tiveness and his comic personages deserve more recognition than 
they have commonly received. Returning to the comedies of 
manners of foreign scene, first among them may be named The 
JVoman's Prize or the Tamer Tamed which some critics are 
inclined to place very early (in 1604) because of its relation to 
The Taming of the Shreic. Here we meet once more the 
merry, resourceful heroine, in this case Maria, successor to the 
miserably tained Katharine, and the vindicator of her sex. This 
comedy is as inventive and original as it is amusing and, as we 
have it, is not the work of a beginner in play writing. To re- 
turn to our scale of comedy, in the unpleasing but able play, 
The Captain, 1613, as in the three admirable later comedies, 
The Little Frcncli Lawyer, The Wild Goose Chase, and Rule 
a Wife and Have a Wife, which range about 1620, we meet 
with lively, diverting and eminently successful specimens of the 
lighter comedy of manners in Fletcher's best vein. In The 
Honest Mans Fortune, 1 61 3, The Elder Brother, and The 
Noble Gentleman, the two latter revised after Fletcher's death, 
the tone is graver and the animating motive more romantic. 
Nothing, for example, could be in better comic spirit than " the 
little French lawyer," transformed into a fire-eater by the acci- 
dent of success in a duel into which he had been literally 
" pressed," but cured at last by being mischievously left with 
his opponent on a raw morning not only without weapons but 
without doublets. A clever and inventive variation, too, on 
the old motive of the shrew, is the main story of Rule a Wife 
and Have a Wife in which a wealthy lady, seeking a com- 
plaisant husband, meets her master; and — according to an ob- 
solete doctrine which few dare now even covertly to hold — 
with man's mastery comes contentment, happiness and love. 

But the distinctive dramatic achievement for which Beaumont 
and Fletcher stand memorable in the annals of literature is 
romantic tragicomedy. Obviously a drama which, in one and 
the same plot, is both comedy and tragedy is an impossibility 
because a contradiction in terms. Even the yoking together of 
both in two separate plots is apt to be incongruous and in- 
artistic unless the comedy is employed in a place of subsidiary 
importance and merely for relief. A tragicomedy is a drama 
which deals with serious emotions — such as might well lead to 
tragedy — but in such a manner as to conclude happily and to 



the satisfaction of the auditor. Fletcher was by no means the 
inventor of tragicomedy which had existed long before his time. 
Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is an excellent familiar ex- 
ample of the general meaning of the term. In the trial scene 
tragedy and comedy hang in the balance. An heroic resolu- 
tion on the part of Shylock to risk his life for his revenge, and 
the scene had turned tragic. To the Jew, however, the man 
of trade and barter, this species of heroism was impossible; and 
he forfeited not only his revenge, but his faith and half his for- 
tune, to become the butt and the laughing-stock of his enemies: 
and so the play ends, a comedy. But when we speak of the 
tragicomedy of Beaumont and Fletcher, we speak of something 
definite and distinctive. If we look back to the varieties of 
romantic drama already described, the heroical plays that trace 
back to mediaeval romance, the conqueror series their near kin, 
the historical and biographical dramas and the tragedies of in- 
trigue and revenge, we find them animated, each in its kind, 
by certain very definite characteristics. They were, for ex- 
ample, for the most part unoriginal in subject, adhering, as a 
rule, to the course of human experience and to a more or less 
accepted code of conduct. They adopted Italy as the accepted 
locality of romance while, none the less, affecting a certain 
verisimilitude to their own contemporary manners; and, while 
as fond of rank and as deferential to it as Englishmen both 
before and after, the characters were not arranged dramatically 
to conform to the rules of precedence. Once more, we find the 
comedies and tragedies of strictly Elizabethan times commonly 
constructed about some central idea, the infatuation of Antony 
for Cleopatra, the consequences of the senile folly of Lear, the 
revenge of Hieronimo, the subjection of Benedick and Beatrice 
to love. Variety of personage and situation is characteristic of 
this drama, and it tends very little to repetition and to the per- 
petuation of types. The later romantic drama, especially in the 
tragicomedy set by Beaumont and Fletcher as an example, 
stands greatly in contrast with all this. Originality of plot in 
it often runs to ingenuity, even to improbability. The place of 
action is tied to no scene nor age, but is often laid in some no 
man's land, governed by heroic princes, possessed of exceptional 
virtues or deformed by extraordinary vices, troubled with un- 
historical usurpations, intrigues and rebellions and ruled by con- 
ventional and courtly manners unlike the actual conditions of 
any time. For unity of plot and construction according to 


some ruling idea, is substituted multiplicity of interest, contrast 
and surprise; and the personages fall into well determined and 
conventionalized types which, repeated in a never-ending variety 
of sameness, draw further and further from nature in the hands 
of playwrights less clever than those who first broached them. 

The actual collaboration of Beaumont and Fletcher belongs 
to the year 1608 and some three or four years thereafter at the 
most. Whatever the two poets' earlier separate affiliations 
(with the boys' companies it has been thoug)it), we find them 
united in the composition of Philaster which was " acted at the 
Globe by his majesty's servants " at some time not long prior 
to 1 6 10. In Philaster or Love Lies a-Bleeding we meet once 
more with an epoch-making drama; for in this justly famous 
tragicomedy combine all the qualities of the species to set a 
standard from which this type of play was little to vary until 
it declined into its logical successor, the Restoration heroic 
drama. The story of Philaster is built on contrast. Philaster, 
the young prince of Messina, has been set aside by a usurping 
king who seeks to perpetuate his rule by the marriage of his 
daughter, the peerless princess, Arethusa, to Pharamond, Prince 
of Spain. The princess has thus two suitors, Philaster whom 
she loves, noble, melancholy and interesting, and Pharamond, 
whom she detests, who turns out cowardly, immoral and ignoble. 
The lovers employ, for messages between them, a devoted page, 
Bellario, who is really the maiden, Euphrasia, hopelessly in love 
with Philaster and so disguised to be near him, he unknowing. 
The requited love of Arethusa thus falls into contrast with the 
hopeless and unrequited love of Euphrasia; and these two va- 
rieties of virtuous affection again are contrasted with sensual 
love in the intrigue of Pharamond with a malicious court 
wanton, Megra, Philaster, although a noble lover, is high 
strung, quick to suspect even those he loves and ready to 
avenge his honour ; so when Megra Insinuates evil things of 
Bellarlo's service to his mistress Arethusa, Philaster for a time 
believes her, repudiates Arethusa and In a frenzy wounds his 
innocent page. In the upshot, Philaster, Arethusa and Bellario 
are freed from prison. Into which the king had thrown them, 
by a timely popular uprising, and from doubt and scandal by 
the disclosure of Bellarlo's actual sex. It will be observed 
that we have here a comedy of sentimental Interest thrust Into 
the midst of elements, heroic and potentially tragic. The con- 
trast of personages, the complexity of the action and Its rapidity. 


all make against any development of character. The drawing 
is in black and white, but the strokes are sure and the person- 
ages that emerge are unmistakable. However, little can mere 
recital of the story or comment on it make clear the variety, 
the swiftness, the poetry and effective dramatic quality of this 
charming drama which may be taken, in a first reading, as the 
touchstone of a taste for romantic art. 

The sources of Philaster have been sought by the critics in 
vain; and, however a general similarity has been observed be- 
tween its character and conduct and the contemporary Spanish 
drama de capa y espada, a contact between English drama and 
that of the Peninsula at so early a date as 1610 has not been 
established. But interest as to Philaster lies not only in the 
play itself, but in the circumstance that it became at once the 
norm not only for its authors — of whom we may well believe 
Beaumont the more important — but for a long following by 
other successors. The other plays of the Philaster type in- 
clude especially King and No King and The Maid's Tragedy 
which rings tragic changes on a similar group of personages. 
In the latter, which must have followed Philaster closely, the 
usurping king becomes the lustful tyrant, Philaster sinks into 
the noble but wretched and bewildered husband Amintor, mar- 
ried to Evadne, the king's mistress, to preserve appearances, 
and the love-lorn maiden recurs in the unhappy Aspasia, also 
disguised as a page and a tragic variant of Bellario-Euphrasia. 
The Maid's Tragedy is a drama of genuine power, carefully 
plotted and thoroughly well written. It held the stage, like 
Philaster, until long after the Restoration and the role of the 
wronged and regenerated Evadne who, awakened to her wicked- 
ness kills her royal lover, first acted by Field and Kynaston, was 
afterwards played by some of the most famous actresses of that 
later time. This tragedy added two figures to the several types 
of Beaumont and Fletcher, the lustful tyrant, repeated in sub- 
sequent drama ad nauseam and in Melantius, the bluff and 
loyal soldier, long a deserved favourite. In King and No King, 
licensed in 161 1, the authors returned to tragicomedy, ringing 
a new change on a similar dramatis personae. Here the king, 
Arbaces, is once more the heroic prince. But his headstrong 
passionateness and unreason is carried to the borders of the 
ridiculous to emphasise his really ignoble birth. So in Bessus, 
who belongs to the type of Pharamond, folly and bluster rather 
than cowardice and immorality are brought out as the ruling 


traits. And for the love-lorn maiden, we have substituted 
Spaconia, a young woman of capacity and address, sister of the 
resourceful maidens of Fletcherian comedy. In dwelling on 
the undoubted types into which the personages of these able 
dramatists do fall, it is important to mark, too, the extraordi- 
nary cleverness with which they avoid mere repetitions. To 
judge them by their unsuccessful imitators would be eminently 
unfair. On the other hand, it is not to be denied that, how- 
ever accurate the observation of Dryden that Fletcher more 
truly represented the manners of gentlemen on the stage than 
Shakespeare, there is a certain unknitting of the moral fibre 
even in these earliest of the tragicomedies. The readiness of 
Philaster to believe the reported unfaithfulness of his peerless 
princess and his cowardly " pinking " of poor little Bellario with 
his sword, the " loyalty " of Evadne's husband, Amintor, that 
unnerved his hand to avenge the greatest wrong that man can 
do to man, because the wrongdoer was his sovereign, the strug- 
gle of Arbaces and Penthea, in King and No King, against a 
mutual passion which both believe to be incestuous though their 
belief turns out an error — all these things are illustrations in 
point and explainable to a large degree by the struggle for 
novelty, surprise and effect which Beaumont and Fletcher in- 
augurated in the drama of the time of King James. 

We have already learned how the lord Chamberlain's com- 
pany of players by a judicious alliance with one Laurence 
Fletcher, who had affiliations with the then Scottish king, con- 
trived to pass into the immediate patronage of King James even 
before he reached London. Thenceforward this company was 
known as the King's company and the other theatrical troupes 
soon followed this lead to the royal patronage, the Earl of 
Pembroke's, later Worcester's, becoming the Queen's, the Ad- 
miral's Prince Henry's, while the Children of the Royal Chapel 
were now known as the Queen's Revels. Paul's boy con- 
tinued to be so designated until 1607, when we lose sight of 
them and a new company appears known as the King's Revels. 
The boy companies, so long successful, seem to have been finally 
suppressed about 1607, and they were succeeded by two com- 
panies of men, the Duke of York's players and the Lady Eliza- 
beth's. A year after Prince Henry died, in 1614, his company 
became that of the Palsgrave, who was already betrothed to the 
Princess Elizabeth, and the company, formerly called the Duke 
of York's, became that of Prince Charles. These five com- 


panics united under the royal patronage long held practically a 
monopoly of the London stage. As to their theatres, the King's 
men continued acting at the Globe, except for the interruption 
of the fire in 1613, until the closing of the theatres by Parlia- 
ment in 1642. The Queen's men were at the Rose, later at 
the new Red Bull in St. John Street, Clerkenwell; Prince 
Henry's occupied the Fortune. In 1609 the King's players 
began to act likewise at Blackfriars which had been leased by 
Burbage to the children of the Chapel from 1596 to 1608. 
The Globe excepted, the playhouses of the Bankside seem not 
to have thrived far into the reign of King James although ap- 
parently Henslowe attempted a revival there by erecting, in 
16 1 3, on the site of the old bear garden, a theatre which he 
called the Hope. This was opened in that year with Jonson's 
Bartholomew Fair and No Wit No Help like a Woman s by 
Middleton and Rowley, but we hear no more of it after 
Henslowe's death in 1616, and the primacy remained thereafter 
indisputably with the King's company ocupying its two play- 
houses the Globe and Blackfriars. 

The last group of Shakespeare's plays are commonly denom- 
inated " the romances." They include Pericles, the rambling 
stage version of a romantic tale, ultimately referable to the 
Greek romance of the sixth century called Apollonius of Tyre; 
Cymbeline, the interweaving of an Italian story from the De- 
cameron with a bit of ancient British history derived from 
Holinshed; The Winters Tale, the dramatizing of a popular 
" novel " of Greene, Pandosto; and The Tempest, the glorifica- 
tion by a poet's fancy of hints contained in a couple of prosaic 
pamphlets concerning far off and " vexed Bermoothes," other- 
wise the Bermuda Islands. It is only necessary to note the ex- 
traordinary variety of the derivation of these four plays to 
appreciate their diversity of origin. Their diversity oi treat- 
ment is in some respects almost as great. They range, in point 
of probable date of acting, between 1608 and 161 2 at latest, 
and they differ materially in tone and manner from Shake- 
speare's own comedies and tragedies that preceded them. With 
Pericles in all likelihood Shakespeare had only a little to do; 
and yet some of the scenes, notably that in which Marina finds 
her father, are in his most beautiful and effective manner. The 
other three plays are not only wholly Shakespeare's, but in some 
respects they offer us qualities of a rarity and an exquisite poetic 
fancy not matchable elsewhere even in his works. In Imogen, 


for example, we have the quintessence of that deep discernment 
and appreciation of true womanhood in which Shakespeare has 
no second. In the imaginative conception of Ariel we have the 
mischievous and fanciful Puck, of the earth delightfully earthy, 
translated literally to the skies to breathe to us invisible in soft 
and musical zephyrs. In the story of Hermione and her noble 
reconcilement to her husband, Leontes, contrite, it is true, for 
his terrible crime of doubt, but according to our human stand- 
ards unforgivable, we have a larger charity and bounty in for- 
giveness than most of us can rise to comprehend. And in all 
we meet with that familiar, competent technique, ranging from 
these greater things — if even they be greater — to the turning 
of a perfect lyric or the conception of that inimitable vaga- 
bond, Antolycus. I confess that I lose patience with the scholar- 
ship whose scrutiny and second sight can discover a falling-off in 
Shakespeare's art in these beautiful dramas of his later ma- 
turity. Must we have always the blare of the trumpets of war 
and terrors followed by the solemn pomp of tragedy? And is 
there no time of the year for comedy except the merry spring- 
time with its frolics and its follies? It is true that each of these 
plays of Shakespeare ends in reconciliation and that three out 
of the four deal with passions and emotions as serious as those 
which are wont to animate tragedy. These plays are tragi- 
comedies in that sense, and by strict definition. It is also true 
that one or perhaps even two of them may have followed 
Philaster on the stage and that Shakespeare, alive as he was to 
all that was about him, must have appreciated the talent, the 
originality and success of this excellent performance. But to 
group Shakespeare's " romances " in any sense or in any wise 
with the tragicomedies of Beaumont and Fletcher — Shake- 
speare's " romances " with their sense of nature and out of 
doors, and their personages as freely conceived and naturally 
differentiated as men and women are in the world, with 
Fletcher's court ladies and gentlemen, laced and starched, gov- 
erned by the conventions of the romantic novelists, sentimental, 
heroic, to the lover of reality, be it confessed, with all their 
poetry, often frankly absurd — is to befog the understanding 
and to lead those whom such scholarship affects to guide hope- 
lessly awry. 

After the period of Fletcher's collaboration with Beaumont 
some have recognised a short period of similar co-operation on 


Fletcher's part with Shakespeare. This would fall within the 
years 16 12 and 1613 and includes three plays, the chronicle 
history, included in Shakespeare's works and called Henry VIII, 
in passages of which a very Fletcherian kind of versification has 
been discovered; The Two Noble Kinsmen, a dramatic version 
of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, published in 1634 as " by the mem- 
orable worthies of their time iVIr. John Fletcher and Mr. Wil- 
liam Shakespeare, gentlemen " ; and a lost play called Cardenio, 
on a subject from Don Quixote which was acted in 1613 and 
registered as Shakespeare's, and Fletcher's by an untrustworthy 
publisher in 1653. This is not very much out of which to 
make a case, although there is no essential improbability in such 
an actual collaboration or in the likelihood of Fletcher's work- 
ing over an earlier play of Shakespeare in the case of Henry VIII, 
when he succeeded, as we know that he did, to the place of 
chief poet of the King's company. The hand of Shakespeare in 
The Two Noble Kinsmen is less likely. The play is strictly 
of Fletcherian tragicomedy type and not a conspicuous example. 
It seems more like an effort in part to imitate Shakespeare than 
in any wise work of his own, though if Fletcher wrote the 
beautiful lyric, " Roses their sharp spines being gone," it was 
one of the cases, really not a few, in which he came near to 
rivalling his master in his exquisite lyrical art. 

To return to tragicomedy, whatever Beaumont's part in set- 
ting the distinctive style of this kind of drama, Fletcher con- 
tinued the species in upwards of a score of well-written and 
effective plays between the year of Beaumont's retirement and 
his own death, at the close of the reign of King James. Allu- 
sion has already been made to the fact that the Fletcherian 
drama is less distinguished by the vivid contrast of comedy and 
tragedy than by certain gradations of tone, so that the tragi- 
comedies, which hold the middle ground, are variously keyed 
to fall into the lower notes of tragedy or rise to the shrill treble 
of the laughter of comedy. For example, in A Wife for a 
Month, although this sombre drama falls within the category 
of tragicomedy, we feel that the logic of a tragical atonement 
has been defeated by an unsatisfactory compounding with sin. 
On the other hand, The Pilgrim, however it fall, too, within 
the middle category, is almost purely light comedy. Whatever 
our unsupported suspicions as to Philaster, in the tragicomedies 
that followed, Fletcher found many a plot in the literature of 


Spain, up to his time little broached for English drama.' Thus, 
The Chances, The Queen of Corinth, The Fair Maid of the 
Inn and The Lovers' Pilgrimage, which lie scattered over 
Fletcher's career as a dramatist, are derived from the famous 
Novelas Exemplares of Cervantes, while The Custom of the 
Country comes from another of the romances of the same great 
Spaniard. Other Spanish authors upon whom Fletcher levied 
with his collaborator Massinger for their tragicomedies, are 
Lope de Vega for The Pilgrim, Juan de Flores for Women 
Pleased, Gonzalo de Cespedes for The Maid in the Mill and 
Leonardo de Argenzola, perhaps, for The Island Princess. 
Spanish, too, are underplots, episodes and personages \n Rule a 
Wife and Have a Wife, The Little French Lawyer The 
Double Marriage, The Prophetess and some others. It is. of 
interest to note that in the list of some eighteen plays of 
Fletcher which have been referred to Spanish origin, if we omit 
Love's Cure, about Fletcher's actual authorship of which there 
are genuine doubts,^ not one is derived from a Spanish play, but 
all come from Spanish prose faction. Secondly there is not one 
bf these Spanish stories that had not been translated, by 
Fletcher's time, either into French or into English ; so that the 
assumption that Fletcher was acquainted with the Castilian 
tongue is as hazardous as the assignment to Shakespeare of a 
familiar knowledge of Italian. It is noteworthy that most ot 
these tragicomedies of Spanish source fall within the period 
when Massinger was In collaboration with Fletcher. Mas- 
singer's own unaided work discloses a similar reference to Spain, 
one work, The Renegado, licensed in 1642, the year before 
Fletcher's death, tracing back directly to a comedy of Cervantes; 
whilst another, A Very Woman, ten years later, has recourse 
once more to the popular Novelas Exemplares. In view, how- 
ever of the similarity In spirit between the earlier tragicomedies 
of Beaumont and Fletcher and the comedias de capa y espada, 
contemporary with them In Spain, it would be claiming too 
much for Massinger to attribute to him the introduction ot 
Spanish Influences Into the drama of England. 

This fertile source once opened, other dramatists soon availed 
themselves of it. Allusion has already been made to William 

2 On this topic see the present writer more at length in The Cam- 
bridge History of English Literature, viii, chapter v. 

3 See Elizabethan Drama, ii, pp. 214, 215. 


Rowley's powerful tragedy AlVs Lost by Lust, 1619, which is 
founded on an old Spanish historical ballad. Among the best 
of tragicomedies is The Spanish Gipsy, 1623, the work of 
Middleton and Rowley, which tells the romantic tale of the 
gipsy maid, Pretiosa, and in the combination of this with an- 
other story of Cervantes achieved a lasting dramatic success. 
The early twenties witnessed a momentary interest in the stage 
gipsy. Besides this tragicomedy, a band of gipsies figure in 
Middleton's excellent comedy, More Dissemblers besides 
Women, 1622. Possibly Jonson's masque, The Gipsies Meta- 
morphosed, 1621, a great success at court, which delighted the 
king, is responsible for this feature of both plays. 

As to the plays of Spanish origin by Fletcher named above. 
The Chances, 161 5, and The Pilgrim, 1 62 1, are charming 
specimens of the romantic species to which they belong. The 
former deals with the " chances " or accidents that befell " two 
young students, unexpectedly become the protectors of a lady 
and her child " ; The Pilgrim details the adventures of a lover, 
returned, as a beggar, to his native place to claim the lady of 
his love. In The Chances the " humours " of Mistress Gil- 
lian, the landlady, English additions to the comedy element, had 
much to do with preserving the play in popular esteem on the 
stage. Another exceedingly popular play of Fletcher's, which 
also held the stage like these long after the Restoration, was 
The Spanish Curate, acted first about 1622. Here the poet 
treated his source with great freedom, the lighter scenes being 
wholly his own. But Fletcher was by no means tied to any one 
source for material for his ready, inventive genius to work 
upon. In Beggars' Bush, 1622, the scene is Flanders and the 
humours of a group of professional vagrants — not unlike the 
gipsies of the moment's popularity — work into a romantic 
theme of disguises, fugitives, merchant adventurers and the like. 
This play has been thought in theme suggestive of The Mer- 
chant of Venice, as The Sea Voyage, also 1622, has been con- 
sidered not unreminiscent of The Tempest. But such " sim- 
ilarities " with the many more that scrutinising scholarship has 
gathered give modern critics far more concern than the easy- 
going subjects of King James ever took even so much as to 
recognise them. In one or two tragicomedies that date some- 
what earlier than these we have Fletcher's confirmed manner. 
The Knight of Malta represents Fletcher's ideal, for example, 
of knighthood in a somewhat intricate plot based on a more 


than usually complete realisation of the method of contrast.* 
The gradual degeneracy of Mountferrat, by means of passion, 
from a brave and honourable knight to recreancy, shame and 
degradation from his order is finely conceived and powerfully 
written. The contrasted triumph of his foil, the worthy knight 
Miranda, in his struggle between an earthly and impure love 
and fidelity to the ideals of his order is more open to criticism. 
In this interesting tragicomedy we have one of the earliest 
appearances in English drama of the heroic theme, soon to be 
contorted into a hundred new and ingenious changes, the strug- 
gle between love and honour. The Loyal Subject is of much 
the same date (about 1618). Here Fletcher takes up another 
theme soon to rise to an interest more than histrionic, the test of 
loyalty under extraordinary and wanton royal infliction. This 
is a favourite Fletcherian situation, recurring in its more natural 
tragic form in Amintor's plight in The Maid's Tragedy and 
in the relations of Aecius to his emperor Valentinian in the 
tragedy of that title. In The Loyal Subject, the loyalty of an 
honourable old soldier is put to tests as absurd and extreme in 
their kind as those to which patient Griselda was subjected 
by her " curious " husband. Both plays exhibit typical examples 
of another favourite situation of the age, the eternal test of 
woman's chastity. In The Knight of Malta, Miranda, the 
ideal knight vowed to a holy life, tempts by way of trial the 
virtuous wife of his friend in a scene which no pure-minded 
man could have conceived much less have enacted. In The 
Loyal Subject, a daughter of that impossible hero, sent on the 
royal mandate, an innocent to the court, proves more than a 
match for the dissolute duke whom she captures for a hus- 
band with unmaidenly effrontery before he has time to propose 
himself her lover. It is refreshing to turn from Fletcher's 
treatment of this latter subject to Heywood's The Royal King 
and Loyal Subject which deals with precisely the same story, 
derived by both from a " novel " of Bandello, told in Painter's 
Palace of Pleasure. Heywood transfers the scene to an in- 
determinate period of English history. Bandello's scene was 
Persia; Fletcher had made it Muscovy, which might be any- 
where. No better example in contrast between the methods of 
earlier drama and those which Fletcher brought in could be 
conceived than that exhibited in these two plays, and this de- 
*The powerful first and second acts of this play have been thought 
not to be Fletcher's. 


spite the fact that Heywood is trying to write in the prevailing 
mode. Heywood makes the contest one in courtesies in which 
the king wins only because of his imperious assertion of his royal 
power. Fletcher adds cruelty to the qualities of his king and 
unmanliness and heroic madness to the submission of his sub- 
ject, and he transforms the sweet womanly daughters of Hey- 
wood's subject into the unmaidenly hoidens already mentioned. 
Fletcher's method of contrast demanded these high lights and 
deep shadows. The drama became of coarser fibre in his hands, 
less delicate in touch and feeling, gaudier in colour, shriller in 
tone, less true to nature, however successful theatrically. With 
The Laws of Candy we meet still another heroic theme. The 
contest here being one for military honours between a father 
and a son. This drama was probably rewritten almost wholly 
by Massinger. It is an effective play of its species, deserving 
more recognition than it has received. Lastly oi this tale of 
Fletcherian tragicomedy, The Lover's Progress is a dramatized 
version of a contemporary French romance and a favourable 
specimen of the old-world courtesy, heroic disinterestedness and 
other fine virtues in which this excellent old literature had its 
life and justification. This pleasing drama is interesting in 
establishing Fletcher's direct contact with that heroic literature 
which several of his plays of Spanish source disclose, elements 
for the vogue of which In the next two generations Fletcher is 
more responsible than any other Englishman. 

We must now turn back briefly to survey another species 
of drama which Fletcher essayed and affiliated to his new tragi- 
comedy. This is the pastoral. Pastoral drama Is only one 
form of pastoral literature, which may be in verse or prose, 
lyric or epic, artistic and without further design than to amuse 
or fraught with weighty satirical or political meaning. The 
mode Is wholly of Italian origin and was popular In general 
poetry before it was attempted in dramatic form. Of the na- 
ture and origins of pastoral poetry this Is not the place to speak ; 
It enters the dramatic entertainments at court with Gascoigne 
and in such masque-like productions as Sidney's Lady of May; 
and it developed in the hands of Peek, with his Arraignment 
of Paris, and of Lyly Into full dramatic form. The scene of 
Lyly's Love's Metamorphosis, for example, is Arcadia, and 
other illustrations of what may be called^ the mythological- 
pastoral school are not wanting among his other plays and 
among those of his follower, John Day. No true student of 


literature, on the other hand, can confuse the English love of 
free rural life, embodied in the national myth of Robin Hood, 
with anything so stilted, artificial and exotic as the pastoral ; 
and therefore the classification of such plays as A Midsummer 
Night's Dream and As You Like It with pastorals, save for 
some delightful and delicate raillery in the latter, is peculiarly 
wide of the mark. It is in Samuel Daniel's Queen's Arcadia, 
1605, that we meet with the first authentic specimen of the 
pastoral drama in England, according to the practice and ex- 
ample of the great Italian pastoralists, Tasso, Sannazaro and 
Guarini. And it was this very pretty, correct and poetical 
endeavour to imitate the best Italian manner in this kind no 
doubt that suggested to Fletcher his attempt to popularise the 
pastoral on the public stage. It is fair to Daniel to state that 
his play is both original and inventive ; it is even furnished with 
satirical comedy scenes for relief in which the famous descant 
on tobacco and its attendant evils was nicely fitted to meet the 
approval of the royal author of A Counterblast to Tobacco. 

Fletcher's one pastoral drama is The Faithful Shepherdess, 
acted in 1608 and printed in the next year with a confession of 
its failure on the stage. In this confession Fletcher gives us 
his theory as to the pastoral in which he adopts, almost as 
rigidly as Daniel, the rules of Italian sanction, attributing the 
popular failure of his play to a vulgar misapprehension of its 
meaning. The Faithful Shepherdess, as we now read it, is full 
of poetry, beauty of sentiment and charm of person and situa- 
tion and we are not surprised to hear that it gained nq incon- 
siderable popularity, especially at court in later performances. 
The story is strictly of the approved pastoral type and the author 
has carried out in it even more completely than usual his favour- 
ite method of contrast, running a whole gamut, so to speak, on 
the scale of the passion of love from ideal constancy to a dead 
lover down to mere wantonness. Indeed, ingenious scholarship 
has discovered a complete allegory of love in this play of which 
the author was doubtless quite unaware. Milton discovered 
more than this in The Faithful Shepherdess. He found there 
beautiful poetry and a dainty sense for nature which he dis- 
dained not to make the model for some of his own most beau- 
tiful poetry. The poet and the critic hunts, each after his 
kind. No further attempt appears to have been made by the 
greater men to popularise the pastoral drama, although Shake- 
speare, in 161 1, utilised the pastoral in some of the most charm- 


ing scenes of The Winters Tale, glorifying his material in the 
process and ignoring, if he were ever cognisant, of the Italians 
and all their regulations. A neglected, but very pretty, pas- 
toral of popular type is Robert Daborne's The Poor Man's 
Comfort, staged by one of Henslowe's companies in 1613. 
Daborne was one of the latest of Henslowe's hack-poets and 
some of his letters remaining exhibit a hand-to-mouth existence 
that reminds us of the career of Dekker. Like Marston, Da- 
borne sought refuge from the stage in the church. He was the 
author of several other plays. A novel departure of his meri- 
torious pastoral lies in the circumstance that his folk are really 
shepherds and do not turn out in the end to be princes indisguise. 
Daniel tried his hand once more at pastoral drama in a less 
elaborate and more masque-like effort. This was his Hymens 
Triumph acted at court in 1614; and this was only one of 
several similar adaptations of the pastoral to royal entertainment, 
such as Scyros by Samuel Brooke, acted before Prince Charles at 
Cambridge in the previous year and Sicelides by Phineas Fletcher, 
first cousin of the dramatist, acted before the king at the same 
university in 1615. Sicelides is described as a " piscatory," that 
is a pastoral in which fisher folk take the place of shepherds. 
The type is classically authentic. Phineas Fletcher's play is 
never dramatic; but it is well written and possessed of a gen- 
uine love of nature that cannot but hold the attention of a 
reader who loves poetry. 

When Jonson died a fragment was found among his papers 
and published in the folio of 1642 as The Sad Shepherd. It is 
a charming, fresh and effective piece of writing and represents 
the poet in full vigour. Moreover, the play is a bold attempt 
to combine pastoral figures and pastoral traditions with the 
English story of Robin Hood and with English witch-lore. It 
is regrettable that Jonson never finished The Sad Shepherd. 
Various opinions have been held as to the probable date of this 
fragment and the occasion of its writing. Some have thought 
it " a last spring blossom from a withered tree." Others would 
place the poem here, a year or so before Shakespeare's death, 
and make it synchronize with this early period of the vogue of 
the pastoral drama at court. Jonson's avowed rivalry with 
Daniel who had just produced Hymens Triumph, which was 
a success, the character of Jonson's fragment, so different from 
his later dramatic " fallings-off," and the opportunity to con- 
found a foe in theory and practice as well — all these things 


point to the earlier as the more probable date for the composi- 
tion of The Sad Shepherd. Why the play was never finished 
nor staged, we do not know. The still higher popularity of 
pastoral drama in the reign of King Charles, we must defer 
to its proper place. 

There remain of Fletcher the tragedies, and of these the most 
celebrated, The Maid's Tragedy, has already been discussed 
because of its close affiliation to the tragicomedies of the Phi- 
laster group. The tragedies, some eight in number, range from 
Cupid's Revenge, about i6o8, to The False One, in the form in 
which we have it, 1620. In subject, they exhibit a greater 
range even than the tragicomedies which are at least four fold 
their number; though the Fletcherian romantic atmosphere 
envelops them all. In two, the scene is France. Thierry and 
Theodoret, a forceable, if forbidding play, is founded ostensibly 
on Merovingian chronicles, but seems written more particularly 
to stage under this cloak certain contemporary scandals in the 
court of France. The Bloody Brother or Rollo Duke of Nor- 
mandy, in which Fletcher is only one of several authors, has not 
been traced, in its powerful subject of internecine fratricidal 
struggle, to a source either French or other. But for the 
inexorable rigour of chronolog}', however, from the resemblance 
of the stories, a certain kind of scholarship would surely long 
since have discovered a German influence on Fletcher 
exerted through Schiller's Die Braut von Messina. Four of 
Fletcher's tragedies have a more or less remote touch with the 
classics. These are Cupid's Revenge, the scene of which is 
Lycia, though the source is partly Sidney's Arcadia; Bonduca 
which combines the story of the British queen, Boadicea, with 
that of the Welsh hero, Caractacus; Valentinian, the expansion 
of an anecdote told by Procopius of that emperor; and The 
False One, which deals with the intrigue of Cleopatra and 
Julius Caesar. This last shows Fletcher and his coadjutor 
Massinger, excellent classical scholars and capable of dealing 
with their historical material in a manner that would have been 
no discredit to Jonson himself. Valentinian is a typical ex- 
ample of the transformation of unimportant material by a re- 
habilitation of familiar personages into a something dramatically 
successful. The emperor is the lustful tyrant, Lucina the 
steadfast wife, Aecius the bluflE and loyal soldier, whilst Maxi- 
mus repeats though it may have preceded) the theme of the 
degeneracy of a noble nature which we have noted In Mount- 


fcrrat, the knight of Malta. And yet with sure, swift touch 
all is transformed into a something new and admirably effec- 
tive. In many respects we have in Bonduca one of the most 
interesting of these plays. In its employment of British stories 
it is allied through a long descent with the chronicle play and 
is more or less closely affiliated to dramas such as Middleton's 
Mayor of Queensborough or Rowley's Birth of Merlin. On 
the other hand, despite an intelligent use of Roman historians 
of Britain, the play is altogether romantic. It is the pathetic 
figure of the little Prince Hengo, the infatuation of the young 
Roman centurion for one of the daughters of the queen, whose 
impetuous and shrill-voiced patriotism falls into contrast with 
the calm, magnanimous heroism of Caratach, that really inter- 
ests the dramatist and with him his auditor or reader. 

When all has been said however of Fletcher's tragedies, it 
must be confessed that his and Massinger's Sir John Van Olden 
Barnevelt stands alone as the finest English historical tragedy 
of the age, dealing with material outside of classical or British 
sources. Here, for once, the immediacy of the material caused 
the authors to doff their romantic plumes and deal with their 
material in a spirit which achieved the reproduction of a gen- 
uine historical atmosphere. The noble pride of Barnevelt in 
his honourable career, the reluctance of Maurice of Nassau to 
press him to his undoing, the skilful use of minor personages, the 
friends and family of the great Advocate, even the crowd of 
burghers, women and children, all combine with consummate 
dramatic art to produce a tragedy that must have created a 
sensation, staged, as it seems to have been, at a time almost 
current with the events which it portrays. Historically viewed, 
The Tragedy of Barnevelt is one of an interesting group of 
dramas which touch on contemporary political occurrences; in 
its freedom from ulterior satirical or political purposes, it stands 
practically alone. In this connection it is enough to remind 
the reader that Middleton's Game at Chess, two years later, 
was suppressed on the stage for its representation, satirical and 
undignified, of Spanish dignitaries and princes as pieces of the 
game; that Chapman's Charles Duke of Byron had been mu- 
tilated by the censor for too vivid a glimpse into the domestic 
scandals of the French court ; and that Massinger to avoid the 
same fate was compelled to translate a play of his on a Spanish 
pretender, as we shall see, into the terms of a classical story 
having to do with Antiochus the Great. The patriot, Barne- 


velt, was executed in May 1619. Three months later there 
is mention of Fletcher's play, which was prohibited by the Bishop 
of London, though later acted. Barnevelt was not printed in 
quarto or in either of the folios of Beaumont and Fletcher. It 
remained in manuscript until its discovery and printing by 
Mr. Bullen in the year 1883. 

The close personal friendship of Fletcher and Massinger 
and the latter's succession to Beaumont's place as the chief of 
those who co-operated with the popular dramatist is avouched 
by contemporary testimony and confirmed by the discriminations 
of modern scholarship. Philip Massinger was of about Beau- 
mont's age; he was born at Salisbury, late in 1584, and the 
son of a gentleman in the service of Henry the second Earl of 
Pembroke. It has been supposed that the younger Massinger 
served as a page in the household of the Pembroke family, whose 
patronage at a later time he certainly enjoyed. Young Mas- 
singer was entered at St. Alban Hall, Oxford, in 1602; but 
left the university without a degree. The details of his begin- 
nings as a playwright are as little known as those of his 
associates. We have evidence, however, that his was the hard 
school of Henslowe and that Field and Daborne were his im- 
mediate fellows in adversity. It was with the former that he 
wrote The Fatal Dowery, a tragedy of great power and excel- 
lence, and the inspiration (unacknowledged by Nicholas Rowe, 
the author, long after) of The Fair Penitent, a drama of 
extraordinary vogue in its day. The appearance of Massinger's 
name with Dekker's in The Virgin Martyr, licensed in 1 620 
and reckoned among the earliest of his plays, and with Middle- 
ton's and Rowley's in The Old Law doubtless marks his re- 
vision of the older original work of these playwrights. Mas- 
singer's association with Fletcher begins about 1613, and he 
indubitably revised some of the latter's work after Fletcher's 
death. To that work we need not here recur. Massinger sur- 
vived until 1640 and was buried, according to the epitaph by 
Cockayne, in the same grave with Fletcher. Some of the earlier 
work of Massinger was written for the Queen's company; after 
Fletcher's death, he wrote wholly for the King's men. 

It can not be affirmed that Massinger, in his unaided efforts, 
added any new form or unusual variety of treatment to the 
repertory of the Jacobean stage. And yet there are distinctive 
qualities that difFerentiate Massinger and give him his place in 
the august brotherhood of England's great dramatic age. Mas- 


singer's work Is of two kinds, the comedy of manners, repre- 
sented in three or more plays, an able combination of the easy 
method of Middleton and Fletcher with the stricter moral 
attitude of Jonson, and secondly, his tragicomedies and tragedies, 
all of them in the approved Fletcherian mode, wherein, however, 
Massinger at times almost equals his master. Let us consider 
first the comedies in which although he shared less than in the 
tragicomedies with his more famous coadjutor, he has left be- 
hind him none the less two admirable specimens of the drama 
of English contemporary manners. These are The City 
Madam, acted perhaps as early as 1 6 19, and A New Way to 
Pay Old Debts which must have been written close to the end 
of the reign of King James. The City Madam echoes some 
of the motives of Eastward Ho in the idle and vicious ap- 
prentices and the citizen's wife and her foolish daughters with 
their ridiculous pride and affectation. But Massinger gives 
his comedy a more serious turn in the figure of Luke Frugal, 
a sometime prodigal, reduced to affected penitence and the ac- 
ceptance of his brother's charity; but, when opportunity arises, 
on his supposed inheritance of his brother's wealth, revealed a 
monster of selfishness and avarice, assenting to a proposition 
to transport his brother's wife and daughters to Virginia and 
a life of slavery to be rid of their importunate claims upon him. 
A New Way to Pay Old Debts Is Massinger's best known play; 
and here again we recognise how close a student the poet was 
of the drama that had gone before him : the situation of Well- 
born and the behaviour of his creditors is much that of Witgood, 
In similar case. In Middleton's Trick to Catch the Old One, 
to pursue resemblances no further. But here, too, Massinger 
has given to his drama an original bias in the powerful figure 
of avaricious and unprincipled Sir Giles Overreach who, in the 
exorbitance of his villainy and its fitting retribution in mad- 
ness, touches the borders of tragedy. Both of these comedies 
of Massinger long held the stage, however altered In form. 
A New Way to Pay Old Debts is even now occasionally acted, 
and always with success despite the somewhat artificial and 
obvious nature of some of the minor personages. Well written 
and capably plotted as are both of these excellent plays. It must 
be confessed that Massinger Is less successful In lighter comedy 
than where some serious motive animates his muse to a rhetori- 
cal fervour. In A New Way to Pay Old Debts, we leave the 
city with Its bourgeois manners and personages for rather better 


society, though the elevation of the comedy of English manners 
from tradesfolk to gentlefolk belongs specifically not to Mas- 
singer but to Shirley. Massinger was less successful in comedy 
the scene of which is laid in foreign parts. The Parliament of 
Love, 1624, is a disappointing performance in which a corrupt 
text and the opportunities of a promising subject thrown away 
conspire to produce an effect quite disheartening. Massinger 
could make nothing of the imaginative conception of the trouba- 
dours, a court for the sage determination of causes in love, ex- 
cept a series of conventional intrigues and a seasoning of con- 
ventional humour. The Guardian, 1633, is Spanish in char- 
acter, if not in scene or in known source; it is a comedy as 
coarse as it is able. Such work offers the greatest Contrast 
with the air of refinement which pervades Massinger's more 
romantic dramas to which we now turn, and seems more a 
concession to the taste of the age than the expression of the 
poet's own personality. 

In The Bondman, The Maid of Honour and The Renegado, 
all on the stage before the death of Fletcher, Massinger worked 
independently and effectively in the received conventions of 
contemporary tragicomedy. The Bondman is based on the 
classical story of Timoleon's deliverance of ancient Syracuse 
from the Carthagenian invasion ; but the story is translated, in 
true Fletcherian manner, into a romantic tale of vengeance 
diverted by love. The Renegado, as we have seen, is an in- 
dependent English version of one of the comedies of Cervantes; 
The Maid of Honour was long and deservedly one of the 
most popular of Massinger's tragicomedies, and in it, whatever 
its undiscovered source, we have Massinger's distinctive way of 
looking at life. Bertholdo, a noble knight of Malta, owes his 
deliverance from captivit>' to the Lady Camiola, but is refused 
by her as a suitor because of his vows. She accepts, however, 
his troth-plight, after the manner of the time, as a test of his 
gratitude. But Bertholdo falls a victim to his love for the 
Duchess of Sienna and wooes her for his wife, thus proving 
false alike to Camiola and his knightly order. Denounced by 
Camiola, the recreant is also repudiated by the duchess, and bid- 
ding Bertholdo return to his order, Camiola herself takes the 
veil. This ending, the nature of the story of The Renegado, 
in which a beneficent Jesuit priest is the motive power, together 
with the semi-religious character of The Virgin Martyr, have 
led to surmise that Massinger had become a Roman Catholic. 



This, his intimacy with several gentlemen of that faith, makes 
a matter not unlikely. But moral earnestness was a distinc- 
tive trait of the dramatist which other plays besides these go 
to show. In several dramas of this type Massinger continued 
the Fletcherian tragicomedy. The Great Duke of Florence 
is an admirable drama refashioned from an older anonymous 
play entitled A Knack to Knozu a Knave. There is nothing 
historical about it, nor about the less important The Picture 
which transports us to an equally imaginary Hungaria. A 
Very Woman, 1 634, is one of Massinger's best romantic plays. 
It follows closely, but not slavishly, its original, El Amanto 
Liberal of Cervantes. And scarcely less effective is The Bash- 
ful Lover, of the next year, for the source of which diligent 
search has been made in vain. 

Only a small proportion of Massinger's dramas end in tra- 
gedy; but some of these are among his best. The Unnatural 
Combat is a forceable play which shows acquaintance with the 
terrible story of the Cenci, although the stress is laid upon the 
feud between the father and son, not upon the more awful 
relations of Cenci with Beatrice, his daughter, and the scene 
is conveyed to Marseilles and the characters renamed. An 
effective and original catastrophe is the protagonist's death by 
a stroke of lightning in the moment of his impotent cursing the 
hour of his birth. The Duke of Milan retells a familiar story, 
that of Herod and Mariamne, already several times used in the 
old drama, again transferring the scene and renaming the person- 
ages and evolving a powerful situation that owes not a little 
to the suggestion of the similar situation of Othello. Finally 
of Massinger there are the dramas that deal, however romantic- 
ally, with ancient times, the early Virgin Martyr, revised in 
1620, The Roman Actor, 1626, and Believe As You List, 
1630, all tragedies, and The Emperor of the East, of the last 
date also, a tragicomedy. Of these The Virgin Martyr tells the 
story of Saint Dorothea together with the conversion of Theo- 
philus, the persecutor, and the martyrdom of both. This play, 
with its spirits of good and evil, alternately prompting each 
after his kind, suggests not only the earlier origin in a play of 
Dekker's, contemporary with the later popularity of Faustus — 
a matter borne out by external evidence — but also the still 
earlier influences of the morality. The Roman Actor Mas- 
singer himself " ever esteemed the best birth of his Minerva," 
an estimation nearer the mark than is usual when poets ap- 


praise their own creations. The theme is of original interest 
and must have been written con aniore. It tells how the infat- 
uation of the Empress Domitia placed Paris, one of the despised 
profession of players, on a level, for the moment, with the master 
of the world and how the man in him rose to the heroic occa- 
sion. The conduct and writing of this tragedy deserve all the 
praises that they have received. The Emperor of the East is 
less important. 

Believe as You List claims a separate paragraph. This able, 
and in places truly pathetic, tragedy relates the story of 
Antiochus, King of Upper Asia, supposedly left for dead on his 
field of defeat by the Romans, but really come to life and seek- 
ing for a recognition of his royal claim. But Rome outfaces 
him everywhere and terrifies even those who believe in his 
identity into silence or repudiation; so that in the end the un- 
happy king is sent a slave to the Roman galleys. This is really 
the story of one of the pretenders to the long vacant throne of 
Don Sebastian and the play was so set at first. But Herbert, 
Master of the Revels, objecting to the story because " it did 
contain dangerous matter, as the deposing of Sebastian, King 
of Portugal, by Philip, there being a peace sworn betwixt the 
king of England and Spain," Massinger rewrote his play, iron- 
ically apologising in the prologue — which Herbert probably did 
not see — for his want of "a knowledge of cosmographie," if 
he should seem to come " too near a late sad example." As 
to this play, a further analog)^ has been pointed out by Gardiner, 
the historian, between the Roman treatment of Antiochus and 
the attitude of King Charles, at this time, towards his unfor- 
tunate brother-in-law, the Elector Palatine and titular King 
of Bohemia. Indeed Gardiner goes much further to find in a 
succession of Massinger's plays from The Bondman to The 
Great Duke of Florence and The Maid of Honour, a represen- 
tation of current political events coloured in the interests of his 
patrons, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, under a thin 
dramatic disguise.^ 

We have thus in Massinger, when all has been said, a suc- 
cessor to Jonson and Middleton in comedy and a continuer of 
the art and practice of Fletcher in able and Important tragedies 
and tragicomedies. Massinger confirmed the taste of the time 

5 Political Elements in Massinger, Ne<u; Shakespeare Society's Trans- 
actions, 1876. 


in this last species of drama and, while he not infrequently 
equalled Fletcher in originality of theme and in consummate 
dramatic craftsmanship, Massinger commonly falls below 
Fletcher in his conception of character and in his substitution 
of a rhetorical style for the poetry which Fletcher had ever 
ready on occasion. Effectively eloquent as Massinger often is, 
we feel in much of his work the same hurry and carelessness 
that we feel at times in Fletcher's, and we do not feel the same 
sustaining cleverness, skill under difficulty and ease. When 
Massinger flags, he does not so readily recover himself. Finally, 
Massinger's verse shows a further disintegration. Massinger 
writes evenly enough; he is less free in the license of the re- 
dundant syllable than Fletcher, or even than Shakespeare in 
the latter's latest manner; but he often expands his words in 
violence to common hurried utterance and he abuses the licenses 
of run-on-lines, the weak ending and the pause within the line. 
In a word, the end of such blank-verse as Massinger's, at his 
worst, is prose. 

But Massinger was only the most important of the followers 
of Fletcher. Even in his lifetime there were minor imitators 
of his types, his Spanish sources, his method of contrast, even 
of his darting hendecasyllabic verse, though never has 
its lithe activity, when at its best, been equalled. Among trage- 
dies in the manner of Fletcher, there is the forceable anonymous 
Second Maiden's Tragedy endorsed with this title by Sir George 
Buc, Master of the Revels, who licensed it in 161 1. This drama 
smacks not a little, in its pursuit of a devoted maiden by a 
" tyrant " and its gratuitous horrors, of the old tragedy of re- 
venge; and much the same is true of the not dissimilar story 
detailed by Robert Davenport in his tragedy of King John and 
Matilda, 1624, however its harrowing scenes refer back to the 
old chronicle play. The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington. 
Both belong to the specific group of The Maid's Tragedy, 
the situation of woman a prey to the passions of man, the 
situation of Measure for Measure, of Massinger's Duke of 
Milan and of Shirley's Traitor. The Bloody Banquet, " by 
T, D.," 1620, marks a similar reversion to the theme of the wan- 
ton queen, the topic of Fletcher's Thierry and Theodoret as of 
the earlier Titus Andronicus and Marston's Insatiate Countess, 
to name no others. Turning to tragicomedy, we find it com- 
monly mixing its high themes — as already in Fletcher — with 
lighter comedy. This mixture of elements is characteristic, for 


example, of the several " women's plays," as they have been 
called that cluster abdut 1620. These include, besides 
Fletcher's own Sea Voyage (wherein a commonwealth of women 
sufficient to themselves constitutes a feature), and Women 
Pleased, the able anonymous play on the same Spanish story 
as the latter, Swetnam the fVoman Hater Arraigned by Women, 
a cumbrous title referable to a passing misogynist pamphlet 
attacked in the underplot. Of a like character, though more 
serious, is Dekker's fine play. Match Me in London and his 
Wonder of a Kingdom, while The Spanish Gipsy, already 
noticed, by Rowley and Middleton, and the slightly earlier 
Cure for a Cuckold by Rowley and Webster disclose in various 
degrees a more or less happy combination of the drama which 
approaches the tragic with pure comedy. These tragicomedies 
belong in the early twenties and to them may be added The 
Heir by Thomas May which, however repetitious of old 
material, is well written and not without genuine merit. 

As to lesser comedy within the reign of King James, it, too, 
had learned much of Fletcher, and that despite the continued 
force of the earlier example of Jonson. Of the older and 
greater men in comedy, we have heard in a previous chapter. 
Suffice it here to recall that not only were some of them still 
active but that continued revivals of the plays of the former 
reign served to leaven the rapidly increasing output of new 
plays. Heywood's important contributions to the domestic 
drama. The Captives and The English Traveller, fall, the one 
just before the conclusion of the reign, the other not far after. 
And William Rowley's pleasing and vivacious comedy. The 
New Wonder or a Woman Never Vexed, however a reversion 
to the method of earlier London comedy, likewise falls late. 
Lastly, there is Robert Davenport of whom we only know that 
he " flourished," as the phrase goes, in the year 1624. To this 
year or earlier have been referred his two comedies. The City 
Nightcap and A New Trick to Cheat the Devil, the latter 
especially a clever if somewhat extravagant play of the same 
general type. Brome, most important of the immediate disciples 
of Jonson, Mayne, Marmion, Cockayne and the rest come later. 
For the nonce be it repeated in conclusion that the period from 
1 61 2 to 1625 was as pre-eminently the period of Fletcher as that 
which preceded it had been Jonson's; for in it, above the many 
other things which we have found, the dominant note was the 


new Fletcherian romanticism which, as we have seen, sup- 
planted with its contrast, its surprise, its gaudier colours and 
more insistent music, the more natural, the healthier and more 
humane romanticism of the Shakespearean supremacy. 



When King James died, in 1625, few of the great men who 
had made his reign memorable in the drama survived him. 
Beaumont and Shakespeare had retired long since, dying, as 
did the old manager and exploiter of plays, Philip Henslowe, 
in 1 61 6, and neither Chapman nor Marston wrote certainly 
thereafter. AUeyn, the famous actor, had retired in 1604, and 
Burbage, active to the last, died in 161 9, to be succeeded in the 
more important Shakespearean roles by John Lowin and Joseph 
Taylor. Fletcher's work came to its end with the reign and 
Middleton's two years after. Of the older greater men, only 
Jonson, Heywood and Dekker survived, the last somewhat un- 
certainly in work with other men and in the making over and 
printing of earlier plays. Heywood's late dramatic work, too, 
is much of it uncertain and in large part lost. He was too old 
to learn the new tricks, however he essayed them in such tragi- 
comedies as The Royal King and Loyal Servant or in his other 
drama of heroic contest, the interesting Challenge for Beauty, 
an Elizabethan effort to appreciate Cavalier ideals. As to Jon- 
son, by this time the best of his work was behind him, although 
the old tree put forth annually its blossoms of inventive poetry 
for the pleasure of the court. Latterly Jonson was less appre- 
ciated as younger pens and keener courtiers competed for his 
place. To the honour of King Charles, be it remembered that 
he was kind to his father's old poet. In the very year of the 
king's accession Jonson had returned to the stage after having 
written no drama since Bartholomew Fair, six years before. 
But these later efforts. The Staple of News, The New Inn, 
The Magnetic Lady and The Tale of a Tub, acted between 
1625 and 1634, while full of strong, satirical and " humorous" 
writing, mark a hardening in the poet's touch, a reversion to 
allegory and caricature, disclosing at times a bitterness, referable 
to the poet's struggle with poverty, failing physical vigour and 
the approach of old age, Jonson went down contemning and 



despising the opinion of the vulgar to the end ; but he was be- 
loved by many, even among the younger generation, for the 
talents that had made him great and for his honest w^orth, and 
acknowledged, at his death, to have been the one, sole leader 
and arbiter of the poetry and the drama of his time. 

At the beginning of the reign Massinger was still the most 
conspicuous figure in the drama. Intrenched in his recent part- 
nership with Fletcher and strong in the acceptance which his in- 
dependent work had received, he confirmed the popularity of 
tragicomedy, contributing likewise, as we have seen in the last 
chapter, both comedy and tragedy to the stage for a decade or 
more. But in these years begins, likewise, the work of Shirley 
and Ford, strong rivals for the popular favour, and Brome and 
Davenant follow soon after. 

As to the general conditions of the stage. King Charles, on 
his succession, continued to extend the royal patronage to the 
theatrical companies that his father had created. Not only did 
the new king take over his father's players, but he added his 
own, the Prince's men, to them, thus confirming the leadership 
of the King's players. The Lady Elizabeth's men became now 
the Queen's; and, in 1632, the players, known in the former 
reign as the Palsgrave's, found a patron in the infant Prince 
Charles. One other company received royal recognition as the 
King's Revels ; but the Queen's Revels disappears in this reign, 
although a fifth company, without a name or a patron, con- 
tinued to act at the Bull and the Fortune. Besides these two 
lesser older theatres, the new Cockpit, sometimes known as the 
Phcenix, housed Queen Henrietta's players and there was an- 
other new playhouse in Salisbury Court which was variously 
occupied. The King's men still acted habitually at their old 
houses, the Blackfriars and the Globe, and an attempt, in 1637, 
to revive a boys' company of players enjoyed only a short lived 
success. A feature of this time is the widening breach between 
the court and the Puritan city in respect to the regulation of the 
stage; a struggle that was to end at last in the closing of all 
the London theatres by the act of Parliament and in the dis- 
continuance, for the time, of all acting of plays. 

James Shirley was born in London in 1596 and educated at 
both universities. Of his family and extraction little is known ; 
but an air of refinement and reserve seems to have been his, and 
he enjoyed a wide and general esteem among his contempo- 
raries. Shirley took orders about the year 1620, receiving a 


charge at St. Albans ; but on becoming a convert to the Church 
of Rome, he gave up his pulpit and, in 1623, took the master- 
ship of St. Albans Grammar School, giving this up in turn and 
coming to London and play making two years later. The 
period of Shirley's dramatic authorship thus corresponds almost 
precisely with the actual reign of King Charles ; for it was only 
the closing of the theatres that silenced the poet. Shirley suc- 
ceeded easily in his new craft and, " without affecting the ways 
of flattery," soon acquired many friends and patrons, among 
them most conspicuous the king himself and his amiable queen, 
Henrietta Maria. To the latter Shirley was deeply attached. 
Through another of his patrons, the Earl of Kildare, Shirley 
was induced to go to Dublin, whither he carried the repertory 
and traditions of the London stage. Thither he returned more 
than once in the thirties, never losing, however, his touch with 
the King's players for whom he was the chief poet in these 
later years. In 1640 Shirley returned permanently to London, 
but his career as a dramatist was cut short, two years later, 
by the peremptory order of Parliament closing the theatres. 
With the outbreak of the Commonwealth wars, Shirley fol- 
lowed his patron, the Earl of Newcastle, taking what part we 
do not know. He was soon back in London, however, striving 
for a livelihood with his pen. To the year 1646, belongs 
Shirley's publication of his volume of miscellaneous verse; to 
the next, his preface " To the Reader," prefixed to the first 
folio of the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher. Soon after, 
Shirley was forced back into his old profession of schoolmaster 
and to that unhappy recourse of his kind, the writing of school- 
books. Teaching, the printing of plays, hitherto unpublished, 
and hack work in translation from the classics for men like 
Ogilby, who never acknowledged Shirley's help, make up the 
drudgery of the poet's later years which were prolonged to the 
time of the great fire, in 1666, when, according to Wood, our 
only authority for the life of Shirley, he was driven with his 
wife from their home in Whitefriars by the flames and " being 
in a manner overcome with affrightments, disconsolations and 
other miseries occasioned by that fire and their losses," died 
soon after, both " within the compass of a natural day." Shir- 
ley was buried in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. 

During the period of his activity as a playwright, Shirley 
wrote nearly forty plays and, owing to his personal care of his 
work, a larger proportion of them remain extant than of almost 


any other of our old dramatists. Shirley's first work was for 
the Queen's men who played habitually at the Phoenix; by 
1635, however, he had succeeded to the place, as also to the 
popularity, of Fletcher. But Shirley really succeeded to more 
even than this, for, owing to his acceptance at court, he coni- 
bined with the popularity of Fletcher on the boards of the public 
theatres much of Jonson's received position as chief among the 
entertainers and writers of masques at court, until he was_ out- 
stripped in this by Davenant. Shirley was remarkably inde- 
pendent in his authorship, collaborating with no one unless we 
accept the somewhat doubtful case of Chapman and certain 
alleged revisions of plays originally Fletcher's. 

The earliest of Shirley's plays is Love Tricks, afterwards 
published as The School of Compliment, This comedy is far 
from a satisfactory performance. In 1626 Shirley wrote his 
excellent comedy, The Wedding. Here the lighter elements 
are happily sustained in the humours of one Rawbone, a hungry 
variant of Middleton's eternal usurer, addicted to a legal jargon 
that reminds the reader of the academic comedy. Ignoramus. 
Shirley was plainly feeling his way, inventively employing as 
yet the material of existing drama as became the bookish man 
that he was. So, too, in The Brothers of equal date, he ex- 
perimented, not unsuccessfully, with that favourite source of 
his immediate predecessors, Spanish story. If we would know 
Shirley at his best constructively, we must refer to The Witty 
Fair One, acted in 1628. This inventive comedy turns on the 
old device of a struggle between a clever girl and a determined 
father as to which shall decide the choice of a husband. 
Marston had used this motive in The Fawn, especially the 
device by which the lady encourages a faint-hearted suitor by 
false reports to her father of his audacity before his face. But 
Shirley, profiting by all this, converted his comedy into as 
veritable a series of dramatic surprises as Jonson compassed in 
The Alchemist or in The Silent Woman. 

It has already been noted that Shirley raised the comedy of 
English life from the tradesfolk of Middleton and Jonson to 
the higher social grade which came in time to constitute what 
is now known as society. Three comedies in particular illus- 
trate this, Hyde Park, The Ball and The Gamester; for here 
Shirley left his books to draw from the life that he saw about 
him. The interest of the first of these centres in the races (of 
men as well as of horses), at that time held in the rural re- 


gions of Hyde Park. The heroine, Carol, is an excellent ex- 
ample of the witty, free spoken but virtuous lady of fashion ; 
and the conduct of Fairfield's courtship of her, a match of wits 
in which the end is a drawn game, reminds one of many like 
situations to come in the dramas of the next age when Shirley 
was forgotten. The Ball, in turn, called attention, by way of 
defence, to the new fashionable assemblies for public dancing. 
It seems that these meetings had been criticised on the score of 
morals and surmised, by scandal-mongers, to be a cloak for vice. 
In this play, however, Herbert, the Master of the Revels, tells 
us that " there were divers personated so naturally, both of 
lords and others of the court, that I took it ill and would have 
forbidden the play but that Beeston, [the manager], promised 
many things, which I found fault withal, should be left out." 
Clearly Shirley had indeed left his books; but he learned his 
lesson like a sensible man and did not, in this wise, offend again. 
Hyde Park and The Ball were both on the stage by 1632. 
When the latter comedy was printed, seven years later, the title 
conveyed the words, " written by George Chapman and James 
Shirley." Now Chapman was at this time seventy-three years 
of age, in poverty and long a stranger to the stage, while Shir- 
ley was at the height of his success at court and in the city. 
There is not a word in The Ball to suggest Chapman, as the 
comedy is dependent on the passing fashion of the moment in a 
kind of society that must have been totally unknown to the old 
translator of Homer. The only other alleged example of this 
strange collaboration is the tragedy, Chabot Admiral of France. 
printed in the same year. Either these ascriptions are sheer 
error or possibly — as seems less unlikely in the latter case — 
Shirley was willing generously to befriend his older, unsuccess- 
ful contemporary in an allowance to him of a larger share in 
work revised than the facts of his borrowing perhaps actually 

Most conspicuous by way of scandal Is Shirley's next comedy. 
The Gamester, acted in 1633 and a notable success not only 
on its first performance but in repeated revivals. The Game- 
ster is the grossest of Shirley's plays; in fact no other play of 
his approaches it in this respect ; and it is no excuse that what 
seems to the auditor during the action a highly " objectionable 
complication " turns out in the end to be no more than " a harm- 
less stratagem." Moreover, the plot of this play was sug- 
gested and its conduct and writing praised by the virtuous King 


Charles. In consequence, Kingsley gibbeted The Gamester, 
in his Plays and PuritanSj and Gardiner, the historian, has taken 
this drama as a typical example of the immorality of the Carolan 
stage. Without endeavouring to condone the lapses of Shirley, 
the vigour of the characterisation and the capable management 
of the plot is not for a moment to be questioned. The matter 
at large is not to be argued here, but in justice it may be urged 
that it is eminently unfair to judge an age, or even an author, 
by a single work. There are as bad plays, ethically considered, 
as The Gamester, both before it and after, and Shirley is full 
elsewhere of poetry and elevated thought. It is not the range of 
vibration that determines the tone, however violence may, for 
the moment, destroy all beauty of sound. There is a difference 
between the improprieties of Shakespeare and the improprieties 
of Shirley, and yet both are dramatic and not necessarily refer- 
able to any defect in the author; and it is almost as unfair to 
judge Shirley — and King Charles for that matter — in this 
wise as it would be to anathematise Shakespeare — as some in- 
deed have done — for the discourse of Mistress Overdone with 
her tapster, Pompey. 

Intermittent with his other work Shirley continued to furnish 
the stage with vivacious and eminently successful comedies of 
manners throughout the thirties. The Example and The Lady 
of Pleasure offer particularly happy illustrations of the poet's 
nice observation of contemporary manners, his inventive facility, 
ease of execution and adaptability to whatever might be the 
task in hand. In The Example recurs, in effective form, Shir- 
ley's favourite dramatic situation, the conversion of a libertine 
to virtue in the pursuit of pleasure by the steadfastness or clever- 
ness of his intended victim; and The Lady of Pleasure repeats 
with sufficient variation the same theme. Indubitably Shirley 
used the material of his observation among the people of fashion 
and rank to association with whom his acceptance at court gave 
him admittance. And he writes always more in the spirit of 
a sympathetic participant in their life than as an observer 
armed with the weapons of satire. And yet while Shirley's 
comedy figures are measurably true to the life about him, they 
fall, altogether naturally, into the grooves of type, already so 
well defined by Middleton and Fletcher. The foolish youth, 
the " humorous " suitors, the sundry kinds of gulls. Sir William 
Scentlove, Alexander Kickshaw, Lord Rainbow — their very 
names betray them — all are the descendants of Middleton; 


whilst Fletcherian are Shirley's many delightful, vivacious and 
resourceful maidens, be Violetta, Carol or Celestina her name. 
With all his changes, turns and ingenuities wrought upon these 
older types, new dressed to move in high cross lights, Shirley's 
most successful and serious variation is that of the profligate re- 
claimed to whom he gives in Lord Fitzavarice of The Example 
and in the " Lord " unnamed of The Lady of Pleasure, a real 
worth, dignity and contrition. Above all the women of Shir- 
ley's comedy stand for the companion figures, Mistress Pere- 
grine and Celestina, for example, in their combination of a com- 
petent knowledge of the world with a womanly sweetness and a 
steadfastness in virtue not to be moved even where the heart 
has been touched. 

But Shirley's facile pen was by no means confined to comedy. 
If we turn to his romantic dramas, we find them embracing a 
wide range of subjects in which light comedy such as The 
Humorous Courtier and pure extravaganza, like The Bird in 
the Cage, hold one extreme and pseudo-history, like The Politi- 
cian, or tragedies, like The Traitor, hold the other. The 
romantic plays scatter over the poet's career, ushered in with 
The Maid's Revenge, in 1626, and closing with The Sisters, 
licensed in April 1642. The Court Secret was apparently 
written too late to escape the order which closed the theatres, 
though it was acted after the Restoration. In observing the 
later products of our English romantic drama, while plays in- 
dubitably tragic or wholly comic on the other hand continue to 
be written, there is a tendency towards the breaking down of 
these formal distinctions. This tendency, the averted catas- 
trophe of tragicomedy fostered, with its incessant demand for 
the happy ending, so that even in dramas ostensibly tragic, the 
conclusion becomes often less an expiation and triumph of fate 
than a meting out of rewards to the innocent and punishments 
to the guilty. In Shirley's Politician, described, for example, 
as a tragedy, all the conspirators and wicked figures of the cast 
suffer death and all the virtuous, save one, are preserved for 
future happiness. Such a play may be described as only half a 
tragedy ; because the tilting of intrigue and counter-intrigue has 
been substituted for a moral struggle. Moreover, it is just this 
tilting of intrigue and counter-intrigue that is the soul of comedy 
and tragicomedy. So that while we recognise in dramas such 
as The Cardinal or The Maid's Revenge that Shirley is ac- 
cepting the meaning of tragedy in its normal sense, and while 


of some comedies there can likewise arise no possible question, 
in the majority of these romantic plays the distinction really 
breaks down completely. 

It was in the early thirties, when at the height of his fame 
that Shirley dramatized in his Arcadia a subject from Sir Philip 
Sidney already employed by Day in his Isle of Gulls; and to the 
same period belongs the extravagant Bird in a Cage, supposed, 
from its ironical dedication to the unfortunate Prynne to be 
charged satirically with allusions to the circumstances of the 
moment. The Opportunity has been reported a happy dramati- 
zation in English of a comedy by Tirso de Molina and exhibits 
with several other plays, The Young Admiral and The Hu- 
morous Courtier among them, Shirley's recourse to Spanish 
sources. The Opportunity is a model comedy of intrigue in 
which a mistake in identity, accepted in a spirit of adventure, 
leads to a perfect network of involvement, and the accident of a 
faltering resolution at the critical moment brings its own defeat. 
To classify any of the dramas of Shirley as historical is to mis- 
use a much abused term. But The Coronation, a very inter- 
esting tragicomedy, details a story of disputed succession in 
ancient " Epire," The Doubtful Heir is placed in a setting 
supposedly of Spanish history, and St. Patrick for Ireland, 
nicely calculated for the meridian of Dublin, reverts, in its 
curious intermingling of the elements of a romantic tragicomedy 
with the miracles of the saint, to an earlier and cruder form of 
dramatic entertainment. Not content with this diversity of 
scene, the ambitious drama, entitled The Politician, takes the 
auditor to Norway and works out a plot of great intricacy with 
figures which it is difficult to think were not suggested at least 
by the tragedy of Hamlet. As further examples of Shirley's 
exhaustless ingenuity in working new things out of old. The 
Grateful Servant details the adventures of a princess disguised 
as a page in the court of her lover, and The Duke's^ Mistress 
manipulates new changes with the old puppets, an infatuated 
prince, an imperious beauty, a faithless intriguer, a neglected 
wife and a bluff and honest captain. 

Among the four or five tragedies of Shirley as yet unmentioned, 
two deserve special note. These are The Traitor, on the stage 
by 1 63 1, and The Cardinal, 1641, one of the latest of the poet's 
plays. The Traitor is still another example of the legerdemain 
of a clever playwright in converting old and trite material into 
new effects. The malevolent cunning and effrontery of the 


arch-schemer, Lorenzo, of this play, in his wresting of the virtues 
as well as the vices of those about him to work his ends, amounts 
to genius. It is little to the purpose to show that the real Loren- 
zino de' Medici was a man very different from the figure rep- 
resented by Shirley. The logic of the drama is not the logic 
of life, and Shirley treated the material of history, precisely 
as he treated the material of fiction, with the inventive freedom 
of absolute ownership. Barnevelt is almost the last play of the 
old age that seems actuated by anything like an historical con- 
science such as chained Shakespeare to the details of Holinshed 
or sent Jonson to a scholar's study of Tacitus and other Roman 
historians. Returning to Shirley's tragedies. The Cardinal is 
generally recognised as the poet's best play of the type, although 
the relations of the chief characters remind the reader, who has 
an eye for resemblances, of The Duchess of Malfi. The plot 
turns on a struggle between the Duchess Rosaura, young, beau- 
tiful and wealthy, and the politic Cardinal (not otherwise 
named) who has gained the consent of the King that the lady 
shall marry the Cardinal's nephew, Columbo, the royal favour- 
ite. But the duchess contrives to obtain a release of his claim 
to her hand from Columbo and gains the King's consent to her 
marriage with Alvarez, the man of her choice, the Cardinal ap- 
parently accepting the decision and consenting to be present at 
the wedding as a sign of reconciliation. In a scene, incompar- 
ably well written and prepared by a prelude of comedy, the newly 
married bridegroom, in the height of the nuptial revels, is laid 
dead, assassinated, at the feet of his bride; and the remainder 
of the play is concerned with a leisurely but masterful unravel- 
ling of this extraordinary situation. A serious blot on this 
tragedy is the scene wherein the Cardinal, unable to satiate his 
revenge on the hapless duchess, now distraught and delivered 
into his hands as a ward, attempts her dishonour. This situa- 
tion is the more amazing from the pen of a Romanist ; but it is 
strictly in accord with the taste of the age for a strong diet and, 
in this instance, leads to an ingenious catastrophe involving the 
deaths not only of the protagonists but of the valiant Hernando 
who has slain Columbo as the champion of the duchess and now 
interposes to save her honour but not her life. The Cardinal 
is the last tragedy that was attempted along the trodden path 
of romantic drama. In tragedy, at least, Shirley remained to 
the end singularly free of the influence of Fletcher. He marks, 
in a sense, a return to the more direct, the less heroic and less 


Inflated character of earlier tragedy. For, however intricate the 
intrigue, Shirley's plot is commonly single and the episodes of 
comic relief are not allowed to usurp an immoderate share of 
the interest. His personages, too, are clearly defined and dis- 
tinguished, and neither in conduct, thought nor diction is there 
ambiguity, difficulty or dramatic delay. More poetical on occa- 
sion than Massinger, Shirley never falls into the latter's rhetoric 
and preoccupation with a moral problem. In a word, Shirley 
wrote frankly for his age and his product was acceptable for its 
ease, finish, inventiveness and sufficiency. He was less in the 
trend of his time than several of his inferiors. That is why he 
so little affected his contemporaries and why the next age 
speedily forgot him to take up with modified Fletcherian 
romance and brutalised Jonson. 

There remains one thing more of Shirley, and that is his part 
in the elaborate entertainments at court which continued into 
the reign of King Charles. It was in 1634. the very year of 
Jonson's last efforts and the acting of Comus, that Shirley's 
magnificent Triumph of Peace was presented at court with un- 
exampled cost and sumptuousness by the united endeavours of 
the four Inns of Court. This occasion was heightened by the 
recent trial and condemnation of Prynne, sometime a student of 
Lincoln's Inn, for his ill-timed and outrageous attack upon the 
stage entitled Histriomastix; and his fellow lawyers took this 
means of disavowing his Puritanic principles. William Prynne 
was an Oxford man, as well as he was portentously learned ; 
he had already written several pamphlets expressing his abhor- 
rence of certain practices, religious and social, of which he hap- 
pened to disapprove, among which the picturesqueness of its 
title has given The Unloveliness of Lovelocks, a conspicuous 
repute. In Histriomastix, Prynne not only attacked, in the 
most intemperate language, the stage (with which he was much 
less minutely acquainted than with the Christian Fathers), but 
he scored especially the disguise of either sex in the habit of the 
other and anathematised the appearance of women on the stage 
in terms brutally coarse and abusive. In this last he was 
voicing a common prejudice of his time; for as yet women as 
actors were unknown to the English public stage, and the 
actresses of a French troupe, in 1629, had been hooted from the 
London boards. Unhappily for Prynne, however, the queen 
had recently displayed an unusual interest in theatricals; and 
had actually taken a part, at a private performance at court. 


in The Shepherd's Pastoral by Walter Montague — for the 
benefit of her English it was said — just about the time of the 
appearance of Prynne's book. It is doubtful if Prynne really 
intended this personal application; but an enemy was found 
of course to make it at once. The penalties inflicted on the un- 
fortunate pamphleteer on his condemnation — a heavy fine, the 
loss of his university degrees and the clipping of his ears in the 
pillory — were as brutal as they were excessive. Shirley's iron- 
ical dedication of The Bird in a Cage has already been men- 
tioned. The Triumph of Peace is a monster masque alike for 
size and incongruity. There are eight antimasques in^ rapid 
succession, of abstractions, birds, thieves, huntsmen, projectors 
and beggars, and the scenes varied from a knight tilting at a 
windmill to a sinking moon in an open landscape. The persons 
engaged could have numbered no less than a hundred ; the scene 
was furnished by the indefatigable Inigo Jones, the music by 
the celebrated composer, William Lawes, and the cost was 
enormous. In less than a week the court matched this perform- 
ance with Caelum Britannicum, contrived by the poet, Thomas 
Carew, with the same able assistance and exhibiting eight 
changes of scene with as many antimasques. Carew's masque 
is poetic in the lyrical parts, but it lacks the dramatic touch 
which Shirley seems able to have infused even into the inchoate 
material of The Triumph of Peace. 

But a greater than either of these availed himself of the 
popular masque form in this very year, in the entertainment, 
presented at Ludlow Castle before the Earl of Bridgewater, 
Lord President of Wales, and known now as Camus. Milton 
had already essayed the masque, if so slight a performance as 
Arcades can be so denominated, and he was to return to the 
drama in its most serious form in the tragedy of Samson 
Agonistes. It was the friendship of Lawes that procured for 
Milton this opportunity for the display of his lyrical talent. 
Comus, however it express a coherent situation in a well sus- 
tained allegory, is not really a drama, though it cannot be said 
that it falls below contemporary masques even in this par- 
ticular. How much it rises in its elevation of thought, ex- 
quisite expression and lyrical music above all contemporaries all 
know who know and love our English poetry. Milton's Comus 
historically groups with a number of private masques in which 
several of the minor poets of the time of Charles, such as Nabbes, 
Cockayne and others, were variously concerned. None of them 


are memorable. In the next year Davenant succeeded to the 
post of writer of masques for the court, shortly after to become 
poet laureate on the death of Jonson. Among Shirley's works 
are to be found several short dialogues, more or less masque- 
like and dramatic in form, and some of them, as for example 
Cupid and Death, of a real poetic beauty. Although one other, 
The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses, is described as " nobly 
represented by young gentlemen of quality at a private enter- 
tainment of some persons of honour," we do not know anything 
definite concerning the performance of either or the time of 
their writing. The Triumph of Beauty, which is a fully de- 
veloped masque and was printed in 1646, contains a* similarly 
vague statement as to its presentation. 

Among the dramatists, Shirley's rivals, In the reign of King 
Charles, none has left a more permanent, if at times a more 
questioned, repute than " melancholy John Ford." Ford was 
the younger son of a Devonshire gentleman, and he was born 
at Ilsington, in that county, in 1586. Educated first at Exeter 
College, Oxford, and later at the Middle Temple, it has been 
thought that Ford was a lawyer by profession and the legal 
agent in London of the gentry of his county. He does not 
appear to have written his plays, in the first instance, profes- 
sionally, although there is abundant proof of their popularity. 
Indeed, the attitude of several of his introductions displays 
almost too great a sensitiveness regarding his " amateur stand- 
ing," and he assures us that his works are " the Issue of his less 
serious hours," and that his " courtship of greatness never aimed 
at any thrift." Ford's earliest literary work was an elegy on 
the lately deceased Earl of Devonshire, addressed to his Countess, 
formerly Lady Rich, sometime Sidney's Stella. A more in- 
auspicious beginning for an aspirant to literary fame could 
hardly be imagined; for Devonshire had died in disgrace for 
this very marriage and Ford had nothing to gain. It was 
characteristic of Ford, however, as we shall see by his dramas, 
thus to glorify this ill-starred couple who for love had literally 
cast away the world. Commendatory verses to his own works 
and elsewhere show that Ford was not devoid of patronage and 
friendship among the literary Important of his time, although 
their works are singularly reticent as to the man personally. ^ 

Seventeen titles of plays have been assigned to the authorship 
of Ford, alone or assisted ; of those seven are no longer extant : 
The Witch of Edmonton, i622j and The Suns Darling of the 


next year, disclose in their titles the name of Dekker with that 
of Ford, the former adding William Rowley's as well. The 
Witch of Edmonton is an effective and pathetic domestic 
tragedy and as such has already received our notice ; The Suns 
Darling is a beautiful masque-like comedy which, first acted at 
court in 1623, enjoyed a continued popularity. It seems not 
unlikely that Ford, in these cases, was the reviser of Dekker's 
earlier work. In Perkin Warbeck, which relates the story of 
that pretender to the English crown and his overthrow, Ford 
attempted to revive the chronicle play, a type of drama long 
since extinct; and in The Queen or the Excellency of her Sex, 
a tragicomedy of considerable worth which recent scholarship 
has assigned to the authorship of Ford, we have another ex- 
cursus, this time into Spanish " historical " drama.* As to Per- 
kin Warbeck, which is an exceedingly interesting tragedy, it may 
be fancied, however, that Ford wrote far more for the problem 
in identity involved than for any historical import. As to the 
plays of Ford in general, it has been well said that they fall 
naturally into two groups: "those in which he took hold of 
his subject, and those in which his subject took hold of him." ^ 
In the first group fall the two historical plays just mentioned 
and the two comedies. Fancies Chaste and Noble, acted about 
1635, and The Lady's Trial, 1638; to the second belong the 
romantic dramas in which Ford may be said to have contributed 
as effectively and originally to the variety of English drama as he 
certainly contributed to its decadence. Ford is as far as author 
can be from that quick grasp and realisation of the trifling oc- 
currences and incongruities of every day life that go so far to 
make up the equipment of the successful writer of comedy; 
wherefore when he descends to trifles, he is veritably trivial and 
when he forces his wit, he is coarse to the verge of indecency and 
beyond. The subject of Fancies Chaste and Noble is contempti- 
ble, and it is no excuse for the author that when we have been 
misled into " fancies " by the suggestions of his plot by no means 
to be characterised by either of the adjectives of his title, we 
are laughed at for our anxieties in a denouement which is meas- 

1 See the edition of this play by W. Bang, Materialien zur Kunde, 
xiii, 1906. 

2 See the excellent paper by S. P. Sherman on Ford's " Contribution 
to the Decadence of the Drama," ibid.. Vol. xxiii, 1908, to which this 
paragraph is indebted. 


urably harmless. TKe Lady's Trial is a better and a cleaner 
play ; though, with all its intrigue, it too suffers from what has 
been justly called " a certain futility of plot." 

The four dramas which were "thoroughly congenial with 
Ford's spirit" are The Lovers' Melancholy, Love's Sacrifice, 
The Broken Heart and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. In all the 
atmosphere is wholly romantic, even effeminately so ; for the in- 
terest is absorbingly that of the psychology of sex. The Lovers' 
Melancholy, unlike the other three, raises no problem and ends, 
after the manner of tragicomedy, happily ; in the others we meet 
with a momentous change in the dramatist's point of view, a 
change both from the acceptance of the code of things^ as they 
are and from the idealist's contentment with the beautiful and 
unreal creations of his own imagination, to a recognition of the 
essential conflict that must always exist between the ideals of 
men and their realisation in a world of fact. _ Thus, The Broken 
Heart gives us the problem of a wife, married against her will, 
yet loving another; Love's Sacrifice, that of a passion which 
springs up after marriage, with the struggle against it; 
'Tis Pity is the awful story of a brother's and sister's incestuous 
infatuation. And Ford represents these things, not as tempta- 
tions to evil about the resistance to which there can be no possible 
moral question among good men, but in the light of a struggle 
towards a larger freedom and a higher morality. ^ Ford is less 
a sensualist and a voluptuary than a moral casuist; the intel- 
lectuality of his conceptions is at least as vivid as his revel in 
the beauty of sound, the loveliness of woman and the surging 
of passionate impulse. In the conflict between the conventional 
actual and his romantic ideals, his drama became more a drama 
of revolution than merely of decadence, although he represents 
to us, in the end, a world in which the accepted laws of men are 
gone to naught or, — what is worse — converted into the bonds 
of an intolerable tyranny. The pathos of the situation of 
Penthea in The Broken Heart moves the romantic reader: 
hapless Penthea who regards her married life a Hfe of shame, 
although her virtue is proof even against the passionate plead- 
ings of her lover. So, too, the romantic reader is carried away 
on the rising tide of that surprising scene in the same tragedy in 
which the Princess Calantha, tall, passionless and fair, apprised 
in successive climaxes of the starvation of poor Penthea, the 
atrocious murder of her betrothed and the death- of her father that 
makes her queen of Sparta, steels her heart against all, sustains 


the royal courtesy to her attending guests, arranges her father's 
obsequies, the punishment of her lover's murderer and the suc- 
cession to the crown, and then falls dead, literally of a broken 
heart. On the other hand, to the wholly reasonable man — be 
he the redoubtable Prynne or the critic Hazlitt — all this is 
mawkish and, where not impious, perilously savouring of non- 
sense. Such questions as these of Ford were unknown to the 
comprehensive morality of Shakespeare, undreamed by the sure- 
footed and judicious Jonson, Now, the problem story and the 
drama that questions all things human and divine is only too fa- 
miliar to us with our Tolstoi, Ibsen, Hauptmann, Maeterlinck 
and Shaw, Underlying both Love's Sacrifice and 'Tis Pity is 
that dangerous principle of the romantic revolt, a faith in the di- 
vine guidance of passion, in the supreme and irresistible authority 
of human impulse, a principle which, put into practice in a work- 
a-day world, is subversive of all established order and destructive, 
in the end, of the very ideals it adores. It is not enough to note 
in Ford originality of plot, a power to conceive his people in the 
manifestation of their passions, a charm and beauty of diction, 
and that true spirit of poetry that fashions words in the glow 
of an actual emotion. It is not even enough to admit in him 
that strange casuistry which, weaning the mind persuasively from 
a contemplation of the rule to the admission of the exception, 
forces home the inconsistencies of our human codes oi morals 
and conduct. In Ford the modern way of looking at the world 
begins and his originality in this attitude is difficult for us to 
appreciate for the reason that we are so accustomed to his point 
of view. Ford applied to the drama and to the particular prob- 
lems that interested him the same questioning spirit that inspired 
the Parliament of Charles to his overthrow. Ford is not only 
the poet that marks one of the most striking of the symptoms 
that characterised the old drama in its decadence, he Is even 
more notably the harbinger of new things to come in a changing 

Shirley bulks large in the history of English drama for the 
considerable amount of his achievement and its uniform attain- 
ment of the standard of excellence which the poet himself set 
for his work. Ford stands out above his fellows for the sincerity 
and intensity of his art and for his departures from the prece- 
dents and current methods of his time. Leaving these, the per- 
sistent dramatic influences throughout the reign of King Charles 
remained Jonson and Fletcher, and the name of their followers 


is legion. With an occasional exception such as Richard Brome, 
it is notable that writing for the theatres was transferred, in 
this reign, from hack writers of Henslowe, professional play- 
wrights, more or less addicted to the Bohemianism that has 
haunted poetry in all ages, to gentlemen, courtiers, even to 
peers of the realm, ambitious to be known, like the Duke of 
Newcastle and his lady, not only as patrons of letters but as 
contributors to literature as well. As we look over the list 
— William Cartwright, Jasper Mayne, Thomas May, 
Shakerley Marmion, Robert Davenport, Thomas Goffe and 
Henry Glapthorne — all were gentlemen who wrote, not pro- 
fessional playwrights. Many are writers of only a single play or 
known better in other walks of literature: William Habington, 
author of a sweet and belated Elizabethan collection of love 
poetry to his Castara; Sir John Suckling and Richard Lovelace, 
the well known and exquisite lyrists respectively of fickleness 
in love and of constancy ; Cowley, most famous and popular poet 
of the day; and Sir John Denham, remembered in a later age 
for a single fine descriptive poem. Cooper s Hill. These men, 
though most of them were writers of ability and capable dra- 
matically in their various degrees, treated their work in an ama- 
teurish spirit; they are abundantly inventive and rhetorical, but 
they will commonly be found artificial and, when not over- 
strained, too often merely commonplace. We have, in their 
romantic and serious endeavours, at times the fantasticality that 
distinguishes the other poetry of their time ; and when we have 
not this, we have premonitions of the frigid restraint and the 
cold rhetoric that became prevalent among the minor writers 
of drama, their successors after the Restoration. These gentle- 
men writers of the days of King Charles are in fact far less the 
successors of the popular drama than of the drama of the court 
and of the universities. Their plays bear the same relation to 
the romantic dramas of Marlowe, Shakespeare and Fletcher that 
the romances of Mile, de Scudery, and such an imitation of 
them as Barclay's Argents or Boyle's Parthenissa, bear to Sid- 
ney's Arcadia. They are superficially of the same class; radi- 
cally in the greatest possible contrast. 

However, from among them we may find certain definite clues 
to lead us onward in our story of pre-Restoration drama. The 
comedy of manners, for example, continued vigorous and unmis- 
takably vulgar, not only in the hands of Brome, but in those of 
Marmion, Cartwright, Nabbes, Cockayne, Glapthorne and 


Mayne. Marmlon was the spendthrift son of a country gentle- 
man and the friend of riotous Sir John Suckling; Cartwright 
had university affiliation and became a preacher of repute for his 
eloquence; both died prematurely. Mayne rose later to high 
dignity in the church, and Cockayne was a gentleman of wealth, 
a spendthrift, much travelled abroad. Glapthorne and Nabbes 
were men of lesser position and of their lives less is known. But 
all wrote comedies in the recognised Jonsonian manner and most 
of them had known the great man in his literary presence- 
chamber, the Apollo room of the Devil Tavern and were proud 
to be numbered among the " sons of Ben." For example, the 
Jonsonian butt, a " projector," our modern sharper, figures 
prominently in Marmion's Holland's Leaguer and in Cart- 
wright's only comedy of manners. The Ordinary. Mayne's 
City Match repeats the familiar device of a merchant's pre- 
tended journey abroad to test the character and conduct of his 
family and reverts to a motive of The Silent Woman for the 
conclusion. While Glapthorne's Hollander, Wit in a Constable 
and Davenport's A New Trick to Cheat the Devil take us back 
to the low life of the city with Middleton rather than Jonson 
for a guide; and Cockayne, more ambitious than some of his 
fellows, in The Obstinate Lady, repeats situations of Massinger 
and Shirley. Of the minor writers of comedy in this time 
Thomas Nabbes furnishes by far the most original and favour- 
able example. Nabbes was a Worcester man, apparently In the 
services of a nobleman of that neighbourhood. His comedies of 
London manners, all acted in the thirties, are Covent Garden, 
Tottenham Court, and The Bride. The last is one of the best 
comedies of its time and, turning upon the familiar subject, an 
elopement, is alike a fresh, cleanly and natural story well told. 
Nabbes deserves the praise that he has received for " his modest 
well-conducted girls " and his virtuous and refined young men." 
His freedom from obscurity and grossness, which are the darling 
sins of this group of plays, is alike remarkable and refreshing. 

But the dramatic influence of Jonson was not confined to the 
scholars and gentlemen. Richard Brome was " a son of Ben " 
in a somewhat different sense from that applying to Cartwright 
or Randolph. Brome had been for years Jonson's body-servant 
and remained such to Jonson's death. The old dramatist, whose 
memory Brome ever after revered, had nothing to leave his 
faithful servant, so he imparted to him some of the crumbs of 
his learning and, as he had done before in the case of the boy 


actor, Nat Field, taught Brome " to make plays." Brome is the 
author of upwards of a score of dramas, comedies of manners, 
and romantic tragicomedies after the custom of the age. The 
first are well constructed and illustrate contemporary manners, 
chiefly in low life, not without spirit and success; but they re- 
peat with wearisome reiteration Middleton's category of gulls, 
usurers and spendthrifts, city wives and city husbands and in 
repetition the lines have become coarser, like the situations, and 
the humour at times falls into horse play and worse. Brome 
enjoyed much popularity in his day not only for his comedies 
of which A Mad Couple Well Matched, The Antipodes and 
A Jovial Crew are among the best, but likewise for his romantic 
dramas such as The Lovesick Court and Queen and Concubine 
wherein he is proclaimed " a limb of Fletcher." Brome's work 
is characterised by inventiveness and a practical knowledge of 
the workings of the stage, there is a certain rough honesty about 
him, and his anxiety not to intrude and eagerness " to keep " 
no more than " the weakest branch o' the stage alive " is at 
times ludicrous. It is astonishing that a man consciously 
possessed of so little poetry could have succeeded as well. In 
his comedy The Northern Lass, Brome achieved his best effort. 
Therein a country girl becomes honestly infatuated with a 
gentleman who has ofEered himself to her as a fit husband half in 
jest. She follows him to London to find him on the eve of 
marriage with a widow, and, in the midst of a series of intrigues, 
exceedingly well managed, stands forth a natural and pathetic 
figure, absolutely clear-sighted and absolutely honest. 

The influence of Jonson and Fletcher has been much insisted 
on in these pages, but not beyond the warrant of the actual facts ; 
for however the greater men triumphed in their individuality, the 
lesser not only began but continued, with a few exceptions, under 
their spell. Both of these great men had employed classic story 
in the drama, it will be remembered, Jonson rigorously and with 
a sense of the differences of ancient manners from those of his 
own day, Fletcher always more or less romantically. It was 
drama of the type of Valentinian or Massinger's Roman Actor 
that presented to the subjects of King Charles their picture of 
ancient Rome ; and such pictures shade off into the no man's land 
of happy romance so that we cease to remember that Shirley's 
Coronation lays the scene in " Epire " or The Broken Heart in 
Sparta. Thomas May is chiefly remembered as the historian of 
the Long Parliament and as a translator of Virgil and Lucan. 


He was a man of distinction in his day and, on his death, in 
1650, was buried with honours in Westminster Abbey. In the 
history of the drama, May is interesting for his effort to follow 
in the wake of Jonson in writing dramas on classical subjects 
with a due consideration of the ancient authorities and of the 
ideals of ancient tragedy. Four plays are the result, written 
and some of them acted, none too successfully, between 1626 
and 163 1 ; they are by title Cleopatra, Julia Agrippina, Antigone 
and Julius Casar. The last remains in manuscript. Passing 
Cleopatra, which is a stronger play than Daniel's on the same 
topic, but which dare not of course try conclusions with Shake- 
speare or Dryden, we find in Agrippina a genuinely effective 
tragedy, swift, clear and eloquent in parts. Antigone is scarcely 
inferior, however the prevailing romanticism succeeded, with 
echoes of Macbeth and the witches and the death of Juliet in 
her tomb, in seducing this devotee of the classics from the stricter 
paths of his kind. May's tragedies are well planned and well 
written, and in an age less given over to the drama of intrigue 
and surcharged situation, might have enjoyed a success more 
commensurate with their worth. 

The few other plays of the period that drew on classical sub- 
jects either take us back to the universities, where Seneca In the 
dilution of three generations still flourished, or over absolutely 
to the delocalised tragicomedy that was leading on to the heroic 
play. Among dramas of the general kind and worthy a men- 
tion is the meritorious Hannibal and Scipio of Nabbes, which 
transforms the victor of Lake Trasimene, however, into_ the 
Infatuated lover of an unknown captive at Cannae, Hemlng's 
The Jew's Tragedy, on the overthrow of Jerusalem by Titus, 
and Messalina by Nathaniel Richards, an able and interesting 
tragedy, as effective as drama can be without the lift of poetry. 
William Heming deserves a passing mention as the son of John 
Heming, Shakespeare's fellow actor and sharer In the Globe and 
Blackfriars theatres. We know little of him save that he was 
the author of another tragedy, The Fatal Contract and that, 
after he had proved his father's will in 1630, he proceeded to rid 
himself of his Inheritance In short order. Richards was a more 
decorous person, a Devon man of good family, educated at Cam- 
bridge and latterly of the church. Messalina Is his only play. 

With William Cartwrlght, already mentioned for comedy, 
we go wholly over to the university and to tragicomedy. Cart- 
wright was identified all his life with Oxford and noted for his 


scholarship. His three tragicomedies fall wholly within the 
thirties and include The Lady Errant, treating of a woman's 
conspiracy in ancient Cyprus suggested by Aristophanes, Love's 
Convert, a story of Pausanias transferred to a siege of Byzan- 
tium, and The Royal Slave, a dramatic amplification of the Per- 
sian tale of the Ephesian captive who was kinr for three days. 
Notwithstanding the classical flavour of all these subjects Cart- 
wright is altogether romantic. He " writes like a man," as 
Jonson said of him and is a capable dramatist. The major situa- 
tion of Love's Convert is much that of Maeterlinck's^ Mona 
Vana, though the censor of Cartwright's time found no difficulty 
in approving it and it is quite as clean a play. The Royal Slave, 
acted before the king and queen on the occasion of their visit to 
Oxford in 1636 and repeated later at the royal request at Hamp- 
ton Court, was remarkable in its day for no less than eight 
changes of scene. 

In Elizabethan times the drama of the universities and that 
of the popular stage were wide apart. Ruggle's Club Law per- 
sonally lampooned the citizens of Cambridge in a manner not 
much above the horse play of the old interludes while Shake- 
speare was penning the immortal scenes of Falstaff ; and Lingua, 
an academic allegory of extraordinary and tedious elaboration 
and completeness, corresponds, in point of its alleged date of 
earliest acting, with the first popularity of Hamlet. In 1607 an 
epidemic of theatromania, so to speak, raged at Oxford in which 
students and dons were alike infected. As we read, in a con- 
temporary document, an account of the whole affair, of the 
argument as to whether English were " a language fit for a 
university," and of their scholar's joy in their petty histrionic 
triumphs, we wonder if these youths could have been aware of 
contemporary Antony and Cleopatra or if their taste reached 
to the satirical comedy of Every Man In his Humour.^ The 
attitude of academic circles to the great romantic drama that 
was to make the age renowned above the scholarship of all the 
colleges, is to be caught in the offhand, patronising, critical dicta 
of The Return from Parnassus in which it is deplored — and 
this in the very year of Hamlet, after Julius C^sar and the 
chronicle plays — that the author of Fenus and Adonis should 

3 See the account of these theatricals at Oxford by Griffin Higges, 
Miscellanea Antigua Anglicana, 1816, Vol. i; and the present au- 
thor's " Thalia in Oxford," The Queen's Progress, 1904, p. 201. 


not " content " himself with " a graver subject." And yet we 
know, by the title of one of the quartos, that this same Hamlet 
had been acted at both universities, and Volpone as well — 
though this was later. Whether such performances wrought in 
part the change or not, by the time that Charles came to his 
throne, we find no such divergence between the drama of the 
London theatres and that of Oxford and Cambridge. The 
popular stage had suffered a modification that made it alike the 
heir of IMarlowe and Shakespeare and of Lyly and Daniel, and 
the scholars now strove with the courtiers and with lesser men 
in supplying the boards of the London playhouses as well as the 
halls of their colleges at home. 

When all has been said, however, it must be confessed that the 
universities only produced one dramatic poet of note. This vvas 
Thomas Randolph, a Westminster lad who was first of Trinity 
College Cambridge and became later a master of arts of Oxford 
as well. Randolph was described in his time as a brilliant 
scholar, possessed of a bodily and mental vigour that literally 
exhausted itself in excessive effort. He died in 1635 at the early 
age of thirty, " leaving behind him, besides a Latin comedy 
(though of his authorship of Cornelianum Dolum doubt has 
been expressed), three English plays and a version of the Plutus 
of Aristophanes as clever as it is ungovernably free. To these 
works may be added a couple of witty monologues, Aristippus 
and The Conceited Pedlar. It was for the royal visit to Cam- 
bridge in 1632 that Randolph prepared The Jealous Lovers, a 
comedy which enjoyed great success although written strictly on 
the accepted academic lines of Plautine intrigue. In The Muses' 
Lookins Glass, which appears to have been acted in London, 
Randolph conceived an original theme peculiarly adapted to his 
light satirical genius. The scene is a playhouse into w^hich two 
Puritans, Bird, a featherman, and Mistress Flowerdew, a pin- 
woman, have intruded to sell their wares. They are detained 
by Roscius the actor, to witness several scenes in which human 
vices or humours are cleverly represented in pairs, each the ex- 
treme of the other, according to the Aristotelian doctrine ; and, 
in the end, the drama concludes with the glorification of " golden 
Mediocrity, the mother of virtues." Thus coldly described 
Randolph's play seems little more than a reversion to the method 
of the old moralities, conducted after the manner of the Jonson- 
ian humour. The Muses' Looking Glass is in reality much more, 
however, in its originality, its wat and really clever character- 


isatlon within the accepted limits of abstraction. Among college 
plays by Randolph's immediate contemporaries may be mentioned 
The Rival Friends by Peter Hausted, "cried down " at Cam- 
bridge in 1631, "by boys, faction and confident ignorance," if 
the author is to be trusted. There is also Abraham Cowley's 
amusing Latin comedy Naufragium Joculare, founded on a 
boisterous episode of Plautus, already employed by Heywood in 
the underplot of his English Traveller. Cowley's satirical Eng- 
lish comedy, The Guardian, 1641, was too impartial to the un- 
worthy Cavalier, as to the hypocritical Puritan, for success at a 
moment when men were taking sides for the impending struggle 
of the Civil War, although it met with a better reception when 
reacted after the Restoration as Cutter of Coleman Street. ^ The 
Floating Island by William Strode, orator of the university of 
Oxford and later canon of Christ Church, was one of the many 
answers to Prynne. Strode's play is a weighty allegory of the 
passions in which is mirrored the complacency of the Cavalier and 
his contempt for the " malignant " whose right even to be heard 
is denied and whose courage in arms was yet to be tested. 

To return to Randolph, by far his most finished play is 
Amyntas or the Impossible Dowry, one of the most poetic 
and successful of English ventures into that exotic form, the 
pastoral drama. In thus recurring to the pastoral in the year 
1635, Randolph was in the height of contemporary dramatic 
fashion, as a considerable succession of dramas by minor authors 
go to attest. Thomas Goffe, Ralph Knevet, John Tatham, 
Joseph Rutter, Walter Montague, are the names of some of these 
pastoral writers ; and the diversity of their extraction goes some- 
what to show the range of this kind of play. GofEe, author of 
The Careless Shepherdess, began with lurid tragedies on the 
Ottoman Turk when a boy at Oxford. Knevet was tutor or 
chaplain in the Paston family in Norfolk and his Rhodon and 
Iris is an allegory of " the relations and properties of various 
plants and flowers," by no means badly planned and written even 
although the allegory is beyond us. Tatham followed Middle- 
ton and Heywood as " laureate of the lord mayors' shows " and 
wrote other plays after the Restoration. His Love Crowns the 
End, 1632, is fittingly described as an " early blossom of a sub- 
sequent harvest which was not contemptible." Rutter was a 
member of Jonson's latest circle of wits and poets, and his 
Shepherds* Holiday was not only acted successfully before the 
king and at the Cockpit but was praised by the old laureate. 


Finally Montague was a favourite attendant on Queen Henri- 
etta Maria and the author of the tedious Shepherds' Para- 
dise in which the queen acted and which, as we have heard, 
Prynne was alleged to have animadverted upon so outrageously 
In his Histriomastix. Better works than any of these are Cow- 
ley's Love's Riddle, which that extraordinarily precocious poet 
wrote when less than eighteen years of age and still a scholar 
at Westminster School, and Henry Glapthorne's Argalus and 
Parthenia, derived from the Arcadia and conspicuous among 
pastoral dramas for a tragic conclusion. Pastoral drama, when 
all has been said, remained an exotic In England despite the 
grace of Daniel, the dramatic art of Fletcher and the ingenuity 
and literary capability of Randolph, for his Amyntas can 
hardly be overpraised for its poetical qualities, its clever cqnduct 
of plot and its wit, grace and pathos. The age of Charles ap- 
pears to have derived a real pleasure in following the vicissitudes 
of the delicate amorous throes and anxieties of Daphnis and 
Amoretta, a matter wrapped up in a more general tendency of 
the age, its delight In the new heroical romance. For Daniel 
and even Fletcher, the home of the lares and penates of the 
pastoral was Italy and its prophets were Tasso, Sannazaro and 
Guarinl. By the time that Randolph and his confreres had come 
to write, these lares and penates had migrated to France and 
Mile, de Scuderj' and Mons. D'Urfe had succeeded to the office 
of high priest and priestess. But to this we must soon return 
In another connection. 

Ben Jonson died in 1637; in the next year William Daven- 
ant succeeded to the laureateship, Davenant, who became Sir 
William, was the son of an Oxford Inn-keeper who rose to be 
mayor of his town. Young Davenant was born in 1606 and 
Shakespeare stood sponsor for him at baptism. Early In life he 
entered the service of Lord Brooke, better known in literary 
annals as Fulke Greville, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney and 
author, as we have already seen, of two remarkable Senecan 
tragedies. It Is questionable if Davenant was in any wise more 
drawn to literature by association with his lordship than by a 
recollection of the example of Shakespeare. It Is not to be ques- 
tioned that Davenant's first model was the Fletcher of Thierry 
and The odor et and The Bloody Brother, for to precisely the 
same category of the semi-historical tragedy of blood belong his 
Alhovine, King of Lombards, 1626, and The Cruel Brother, of 
the next year. In this latter play we have a signal premonition 


as to the side which the dramatic poets would be likely to take 
in the coming difficulties of the crown as well as a specimen 
of the nice punctilios of honour which were constantly arising 
to perplex the gentlemen of Davenant's day. " Honour " com- 
pelled " the cruel brother " to kill his sister because she had 
fallen a victim to the royal lust; " loyalty " preserved her royal 
betrayer. Fletcher had solved the problem very differently 
some twenty years before in The Maid's Tragedy which the 
polite Mr. Waller rewrote as to the last act in a still later age, 
converting the denouement into a reconciliation not to offend the 
susceptibilities of the royal lover of Nell Gwyn. 

We may pass the able military drama, The Colonel, after- 
wards rewritten as The Siege, and The Just Italian, Daven- 
ant's first venture in comedy. A severe illness now overtook 
the poet, but he returned to the stage in 1634 with two comedies 
of manners, The Wits, merrily vindicating " the claims of town 
gallantry to a monopoly of the art," and News from Plymouth, 
a somewhat novel situation of three young officers of the royal 
navy, wind-stayed in port with their adventures, chiefly amorous, 
ashore. In certain personages of these comedies Davenant de- 
clares his adhesion to the Jonsonian mode. But this was not 
his most important work. To these years belong his several 
contributions in pre-Restoration times to the forebears of the 
heroic play and likewise his masques. " For heroic plays," says 
Dryden, " the first light we had of them, on the English theatre, 
was from the late Sir William Davenant," and the first unmis- 
takable beam of that light was his Love and Honour, first 
known as The Courage of Love. A noble lady is a prisoner and 
in danger of her life in reprisal for the supposed death of a 
prince. She is attended by three young gentlemen who are all 
devotedly and chivalrously attached to her. One is filled with 
remorse that his misplaced valour should have taken her a 
prisoner, a second, her fellow in captivity with his sister, is 
equally disconsolate that he was unable to defend her, the third, 
son of the Duke, who has decreed her death, plans incessantly 
for her delivery. Moreover, each is generously " delighted " 
that the " others in their love concur with mine." And the lady 
and her attendant, sister of the second cavalier, both are equally 
generous and disinterested. The drama that is evolved out of 
this situation is both ingenious and interesting, and examination 
of the texts goes to show that, though rewritten after the 
Restoration, the original version contained all the elements of 


the heroic which the situation suggests. To the same year be- 
longs Davenant's most successful masque, The Temple of Love. 
Here the poet seems to have endeavoured to brmg back the 
masque to its former reasonable status and redeem it from the 
extravagance and excess which it had reached earher m the 
year in Shirley's monster Triumph of Peace. The subject of 
Davenant's masque touches on the affectation of the monient, 
Platonic love, and tells how Divine Poesie has obscured from 
the unworthy the temple of chaste love to re-establish it,^ m all 
its pristine glory, by means of the influence of Indamora s (the 
queen's) beauty. This was a very appropriate compliment, 
for Henrietta Maria, whose delicate romantic temper had been 
nurtured in the salon of the Marquise de Rambouillet, was the 
true leader in her husband's court of the new French preciosity, 
one of the refinements of which was the cult of Platonic love. 

The vogue of the new preciosity in England was extraordi- 
nary and its influence on society, manners and literature exceed- 
ingly great. The salons of literary ladies such as those of the 
Duchess of Newcastle and the Countess of Carlisle were con- 
ducted in accordance with its laws; the letters of Sir John Suck- 
ling to the lady whom he addressed as Aglaura were charged 
with it as were the lyrics of Waller to his Saccharissa. In the 
drama, although French preciosity continued into the next age 
as one of the characteristics of the heroic play, the feature ot it, 
know as Platonic love, received but a short shrift. ^ As early 
as 1629, Jonson had described a true " Platonique m that 
"most Socratic lady," Lady Frampul (in The New Inn), 
whose "humour" it is to regard "nothing a felicity but to 
have a multitude of servants {i.e., Platonic lovers) and be called 
mistress by them." And James Howell expresses the English 
attitude towards the whole matter, in a letter which coincides 
with the date of Davenant's masque, in the words, this love 
sets the wits of the town on work." An example of this is the 
curious anonymous dramatic satire, Lady Alimony, which has 
much to tell of "Platonic confidents" and " cashiered con- 
sorts " ; another is Davenant's own Platonic Lovers which fol- 
lowed hard upon his masque. In this contrast of a pair of 
lovers, who love Platonically and discourse soulfully against 
fruition of love in marriage," with a wholesome couple who 
frankly court that they may marry, Davenant, though arguing 
the case ingeniously enough, leaves us in no doubt as to his own 
attitude on the subject. It was upon these general achievements 


in the drama that Davenant received the laureateship ; and justly, 
when everything has been considered. The rest of his work 
prior to the Restoration is less important save for the thoroughly 
heroic drama, The Fair Favourite, 1638, which likewise con- 
tains much dignified and elevated discourse on the casuistry of 
heroic love. The other pre-Restoration dramas of Davenant 
include The Unfortunate Lovers, a tragedy purely of the old 
type of Fletcher and The Distresses (later called The Spanish 
Lovers), which is little more than the translation of a typical 
Spanish drama of cloak and sword. Davenant's three or four 
other masques. Prince D' Amour, Britannia Triumphans and 
Salmacida Spolia (with perhaps Lumenalia) by no means equal 
The Temple of Love, but are meritorious efforts to follow in 
the wake of the previous great laureate without a tithe of his 
lyrical gift or his inexhaustible inventiveness. Davenant is 
less easily disposed of than he who has read only about him 
might suppose. Truly poetical he is not, although he comes 
near to the simulation of poetry at times ; eloquent and no mean 
master of the devices of rhetoric, he is often. His dramatic 
aptitude is not to be questioned and his practical conversancy 
with the stage makes every one of his plays thoroughly practi- 
cable. Davenant was English to the core and remained such 
despite his Frenchified name and certain experiences later in 
France. But there was a streak of the impracticable and ro- 
mantic in him of which his rhyming epic, Gondibert, a poem of 
genuine worth, however fanciful, is a patent example, and it 
was this that made him the chief conduit by which the heroic 
play was carried over, as we shall see, into a new age. 

But Davenant was by no means the only conduit. In the 
now forgotten tragicomedies of Lodowick Carlell and those of 
Thomas Killigrew we have equally certain forerunners of the 
heroic play of Orrery and Dryden. Both men belonged to 
the intimate circle of the court and both reached success in their 
work because it fell in with the contemporary taste, in fashion- 
able circles, for the intricate adventures, elevated sentiment and 
conventionally heroic virtues and passions that made for the 
vogue, each in its degree, of the Spanish romantic drama and 
the French heroic romances. Carlell, who came of the border 
stock of the Carlyles of Bryde Kirk, rose through various pre- 
ferments to be one of the royal keepers of the great forest at 
Richmond; he died in 1675. The six or seven tragicomedies of 
Carlell begin with The Deserving Favourite the plot of which 


is lifted from a contemporary Spanish novel, in 1629, and con- 
clude with The Fool would be Favourite, 1 638, the intricacy 
and artificiality of which alone should be sufficient to establish 
its originality. Carlell revels in the heroic dilemma, the struggle 
between love and duty, " love without the possibility of satis- 
faction " (delight of the " Platoniques "), the duel of devoted 
friends on a punctilio of honour and the like. In Arviragus 
and Philicia he lays his scene in ancient Britain and runs through 
the gamut of Fletcherian figures — the tyrant king, heroic 
prince, faithful friend, sage counsellor, imperious princess, and 
the steadfast maiden, masquerading as a page, all are there. _ But 
his situations are turned to the heroic pitch and his ingenuities of 
plot carry us off into a world equally well described in The 
Passionate Lovers as " Burgony." Carlell marks more than a 
degeneracy in design, personage and situation. His medium of 
expression is a loose mixture of blank-verse and prose, which 
flows easily enough, but is too fibreless for good verse and too 
rhythmic for successful prose. Nor is Killigrew substantially 
different in kind. Killigrew was reared as a page in the court 
of King Charles I and continued a favourite companion of 
Prince Charles. He wrote his earlier plays while abroad, be- 
tween 1635 and 1640, and lived to be a theatrical figure of note 
in the next age. His tragicomedies are full of action, adven- 
ture and melodrama. In Claracilla the princess of that name 
is rescued from a usurper by her lover and his friends; in The 
Prisoner, an heroic pirate holds princes for ransom and kid- 
naps their women folk, and much of the stor>' takes place at 
sea. In The Princess, one of the personages is known as 
" Virgilius, son to Julius Caesar," and the plot of another play, 
Cicilia and Clorinda, is confessedly derived from Le Grand 
Cyrus, itself enough to explain all this heroical inspiration. 
Killigrew wrote with fluency, not to say volubility, but his work 
in this kind, like that of Carlell, is without distinction. His 
one pre-Restoration comedy, The Parson s Wedding, acted in 
1640, marks the lowest degradation of the old stage in the un- 
blushing effrontery of Its situations and in its unparalleled 
ribaldry. Two brothers of Thomas Killigrew, Henry and Sir 
William, contributed several plays to the degenerate tragicomedy 
of adventure in which the family seem to have been especially 
practised, but neither Palantius and Eudora, Silindra, Pandora, 
Ormasdes, nor The Siege of Urbin are in any wise memorable 


or likely to delay any one except the most valiant and curious 

More attention has been given here to Carlell and the Killi- 
grews than the intrinsic value of their work deserves. They 
were by no means conspicuous save for their fertility in those last 
years of the old drama. John Gough, Sir William Berkeley 
and Sir William Lowes shared, each in a single play, in their 
fluency, romantic novelty and absurdity. Lowes, strangely 
enough, was a translator of Corneille and other contemporary 
French dramatists, but he learned nothing from them. His 
Phcenix in her Flames runs rampant over Arabia, Egypt and 
Persia, and the peerless princess, his heroine, dies like the fabu- 
lous bird of the title, smothered in the fumes of sweet incense. 
This effort deserves mention as the very extremity of extrava- 
gant romance, preposterously dramatized; and Berkeley's Lost 
Lady, with its ridiculous denouement, the discovery of the 
identity of the heroine, though blackened to simulate a Moor, by 
the laving of her face in water, is assuredly a good second. No 
wonder that this kind of thing, written by persons of quality, 
should have led to a recrudescence of the old heroical plays of 
the class of The Four Prentices of London, and that we meet 
with the " dolent history " of Guy of Warwick, " by B. J." (not 
Ben Jonson), in 1639, a personage who figures triumphant 
among Paynims, giants and fairies, and with The Seven Cham- 
pions of Christendom, by one John Kirke, and acted at the 
Cockpit, in which " the heir to great Coventry " slays Ma- 
hometans in Trebizond and dragons in Tartary, a place where, 
to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning, " devils run 
laughing over the stage." Nor did comedy suffer a less com- 
plete degradation, if we remember Killigrew's outrageous ven- 
ture which enjoyed a huge success, and such coarse if vigorous 
sketches of low life as The Gossips' Brawl, The Walks of 
Islington and The Ghost, or Woman Wears the Breeches. 
Occasionally, in these late years, we meet with some- 
thing better. London Chanticleers is a fresh and odd little 
play of unknown authorship on the city's street vendors; The 
Swaggering Damsel by Robert Chamberlain, a favourable speci- 
men of the minor domestic drama; and The Country Girl " by 
T. B." and The Cunning Lovers by Alexander Brome are good 
comedies of manners, of London and foreign scene respectively. 
Moreover, scholarly men and men of attainments in other walks 


of literature still busied themselves with the drama. Francis 
Quarles, for example, the serious if fantastic religious poet, left 
behind him " a comedy " of no great merit entitled The Virgin 
Widow; and William Habington, author of Castara, a tragedy. 
The Queen of Aragon, staged at court and at Blackfriars, we 
are told, at great expense. Of the unfortunate Richard Love- 
lace, exquisite lyrist of constancy, the titles only and a few scraps 
of two lost plays remain. The conscientious student will find 
several titles of plays of these closing years to add to his list, 
if he will search the later volumes of Dodsley's collection. 
Among them and elsewhere he will find a late recurrence to 
Seneca in the virile tragedy, Imperiale, by Ralph Freeman, and 
a repetition of the story of Plangus from the Arcadia, already 
used by Fletcher, in Andromana, the Merchant's Wife. The 
Rebellion of Thomas Rawlins is replete with bandits, disguises, 
rescues and visions, and Nabbes' Unfortunate Mother, '' refused 
by the actors," has abo been placarded by a modern editor as a 
play " that hardly allows itself to be read." 

In these very last years, one writer of plays stands out above 
his fellows, howsoever he wrote in the prevailing modes; and, 
strange to say, that writer was Sir John Suckling, the lyrical 
poet, spendthrift and trifler. But Suckling, who was fortune's 
darling as to wealth, personal endowment and station in life, 
had enjoyed excellent training at Oxford and, above all the rest 
of his contemporaries, knew, admired and honoured the poetry 
of Shakespeare. Suckling left three plays. Aglaura was staged 
by the author in 1637 with the same prodigality that he be- 
stowed two years later on the equipment of a company of horse 
for his king. Aglaura is a somewhat gloomy drama possessed 
of the pseudo-historical atmosphere of its kind and full of the 
" Platonics " of the passing moment. With a flippancy alto- 
gether characteristic, Suckling wrote an alternative final act so 
that the play might be acted a tragedy or a comedy. The 
Goblins is a sprightly comedy of intrigue Involving a couple of 
very hackneyed situations, two noble houses at feud and a 
prince's relinquishment of a maid whom he loves to a more fit- 
ting suitor of her own choice. Brennoralt is Suckling's best 
and most ambitious effort and interesting for its Byronic hero 
who is doubtless a projection of the poet himself when he was 
not in his habitually flippant and cynical pose. Suckling, how- 
ever, is not a dramatist, with all his wit, his mastery of style, 
his poetry (in which he towers over the playwrights in this 


last decade), and his occasional weight of thought. The best 
thing in Brennoralt is a certain fine heroic note that tells us 
that even in this sybarite and trifler there was a spirit within 
that might have risen to better things than atonement for a 
misspent life in suicide. 

The Puritan had been at variance with the drama from the 
very earliest times, and by no means without reason ; for the 
abuses of the stage have been many and only too glaring in all 
ages. The hostility of the city was now grown into a more 
serious matter, the hostility of Parliament, and the intent to 
regulate the performance of plays and the building of playhouses 
became manifest early in the reign. In the very year of the 
king's accession, the acting of plays on Sunday was again for- 
bidden and a petition for the building of an amphitheatre in 
Lincoln's Inn Fields failed, in the next year, when it was dis- 
covered that it was intended to house players. The notorious 
Nathaniel Gyles, who, as Master of the royal chapel, had 
trafficked for a generation in boy actors, was forbidden any 
longer to take up boys, on plea of the royal service, to make 
players of them; and, in 1631, the Bishop of London was peti- 
tioned by the inhabitants of Blackfriars for the removal of the 
theatre from among them because it interfered with traffic, trade 
and the worship of God. The friends of the drama at court 
had their hands full in this phase of Puritan aggression and 
the bitterness of the prosecution of Prynne marks the height of 
the Cavalier counter action. In 1636 and 1637, the plague 
kept the playhouses closed for a month ; and Collier is the ques- 
tionable authority for an order issued to suppress the players as 
early as 1640. Finally, in September 1642, came the ordinance 
of lords and commons putting a stop to the performance of all 
plays because of the outbreak of the war. The Puritan sup- 
pression of the drama was an actual one, and most of the players 
sought service in the camp of the king. In 1647, in con- 
sequence of certain attempts on the part of the actors to resume 
acting, the war being now over, all players were declared com- 
mon rogues within the meaning of the old statutes, their play- 
houses were dismantled and even attendance at a play became a 
statutory offence. 


The ordinance of 1642 had closed the theatres and brought to 
an untimely end the brilliant drama that had flourished with 
such luxuriance during three generations. In the civil war, the 
players followed the king almost to a man, though there are 
indications that some of them sought a livelihood mthe con- 
tinuance of the practice of their profession abroad. With the 
conclusion of the war, some of the players attempted entertain- 
ments of various kinds, only to be met with more drastic regula- 
tions by their triumphant Puritan enemies. Thus !• letcher s 
King and No King (a somewhat suggestive title in 1647), was 
announced at Salisbury Court, only to be stopped by the sheritts; 
in the next year, the provisions of earlier acts having expired, 
the players promptly opened to large audiences at the Fortune, 
the Red Bull and the Cockpit, again to be dispersed in the last 
instance, by a party of soldiers. Angered by these efforts on the 
part of the actors, Parliament passed the ordmance of l<ebruary 
1648 authorising the destruction of all playhouses and the com- 
pulsion of all actors, on pain of flogging and imprisonment, to 
enter into a recognisance " never to act or play any plays or 
interludes any more." Even with this, there seems to have 
been some connivance at performances during the Common- 
wealth ; those in lesser authority could, on occasion, be reached 
so as to wink at plays not too openly acted. And private per- 
formances could, of course, not be controlled. In later Com- 
monwealth times the laws were less stringently enforced. 
Cromwell himself was no such enemy of the drama as the Par- 
liament which had preceded him in power, though he, too, con- 
tinued to invoke the law on occasion. 

During the ban upon the drama, various devices were em- 
ployed to evade the letter of the law. Among them, by far the 
most successful was the " droll " or " droll humour, which 
was commonly a single scene or situation, humorous or other. 


derived from some well known popular play and acted, or recited 
at least, in character. In the " address to the reader " prefixed to 
a collection of drolls entitled The Wits, or Sport upon Sport, 
1673, the publisher informs us that performance was "only 
allowed us ... by stealth . . . under pretence of rope-danc- 
ing " ; but notwithstanding, drolls were " acted in public and 
private, in London at Bartholomew fairs ... in halls and 
taverns ... at Charing Cross, Lincoln's Inn Fields and other 
places," and that they were " as great get-pennies to the actors 
as any of our late famed plays." This collection contains no less 
than thirty-six such scenes, serious and comic, pastoral, none of 
them tragic, and they are derived from more than a score of 
well-known plays, mostly Fletcher's; but Hamlet (for the grave- 
diggers' scene), Henry IV (for Falstaff's monstrous account of 
the robbery on Gadshill) and A Midsummer Night's Dream 
(for " the merry conceits of Bottom the Weaver") are among 
them. Some of the drolls are mere foolery, especially those 
written by the chief actor in them, Robert Cox; others take over 
some of the coarsest scenes of the older drama. It seems not 
unlikely that this particular kind of evasion of the Puritan 
ordinances against the stage enjoyed, during the Commonwealth, 
a somewhat greater vogue than it has usually been accredited. 

When at the height of his reputation in the reign of King 
Charles I, Davenant had become governor of the King's and 
Queen's players and had obtained a royal patent, empowering 
him to erect a playhouse. Nothing came of this, however, in 
those troublous times; and two years later, in 1641, the poet 
was driven to seek safety in France for his part in a royalist 
conspiracy. But he soon returned to England and, following 
the king, was knighted for distinguished service at the siege of 
Gloucester in 1643. He served the queen thereafter as a con- 
fidential agent on more than one mission; and, as such, was 
arrested, off the coast of France, in 1649, and sent to Cowes 
Castle. It was during this imprisonment that Davenant wrote 
his epic Gondibert, published in 1 651 and already mentioned. 
On the lifting of the rigorous restrictions heretofore placed on 
dramatic performances, Davenant obtained permission to produce 
an " entertainment," as he called it, of declamation and music, 
" after the manner of the ancients," and actually staged it at 
Rutland House in May 1656. Davenant's " entertainment " 
was made up of two pairs of speeches, the first on the pertinent 
topic, " against and for public entertainment by moral presenta- 


tion," the second in a lighter vein, the whole interspersed with 
good music by musicians of repute. It was really a '' feeler to 
test how far he might venture, and was sufficiently well re- 
ceived to encourage him to the preparation of the famous Siege 
of Rhodes, " made by the art of prospective in scenes and the 
story sung in recitative music." In his address." To the reader," 
Davenant carefully explains that " the story as represented . . . 
is heroical, and, ... I hope, intelligibly conveyed to advance 
the characters of virtue in the shapes of valour and conjugal 
love " This was a sop to the Puritan Cerberus who had still 
power to bite. Much was made, too, of the scenic, musical and 
operatic features to obscure as far as possible the circumstance 
that The Siege was in any wise a play. And indeed the pro- 
duction, save for its change of scene, variety of costume and gen- 
eral characterisation, can claim very little dramatic merrt. 
Acted in August 1656, The Siege of Rhodes was an immediate 
success; and, the wedge now entered, Davenant opened the 
Cockpit in 1658, producing there two similar ' operas, as he 
called them, on the historical topics, The Cruelty of the Span- 
iards in Peru and The History of Sir Francis Drake. The 
" historical " matter and " improving " purpose of these per- 
formances were nicely calculated to disarm Puritan suspicion 
and an intended inquiry into their nature was frustrated by the 
rapid movement of events. The Siege of Rhodes it may be 
remarked, is neither the first English opera, the earliest English 
play to employ actresses on the stage, nor the earliest play in 
England to make a change of scene. All these things have been 
erroneously stated about it. Only the author's own misuse of 
the term could have caused it to be designated an opera; the 
women who appeared in it were chosen for their voices, not for 
their acting, and at least one of them, the well known Mrs. 
Coleman, had already appeared in Davenant's previous enter- 
tainment." As to scenery, we have already heard of eight 
changes of scene in Cartwright's Royal Slave acted at Oxford 

in the year 1636. , ., , .u . 1 j * 

This is not the place in which to detail the events that led to 
the Restoration of King Charles II. Soon after the arnval of 
General Monck in London, February 1660, John Rhodes, for- 
merly a wardrobe keeper in the King's company, received per- 
mission to open a playhouse in Charing Cross, and other com- 
panies soon followed at the Red Bull and Salisbury Court. In 
August Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant secured 


a royal patent empowering them to " erect " two companies of 
players. And now Sir Henry Herbert, the long quiescent 
Master of the Revels, intervened to assert the authority which 
he had held over from the previous reign. Out of the disputes, 
divisions, combinations and compromises that followed there 
emerged two recognised companies, the King's, presided over by 
Killigrew, and the Duke of York's company, headed by Daven- 
ant. From 1661 on, the latter company acted at the playhouse in 
Lincoln's Inn Fields, Portugal Row, until transferred, in 1671, 
three years after Davenant's death, to their new and handsome 
theatre in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, on a site known as 
Dorset Garden. The King's players occupied the Theatre 
Royal in Drury Lane (although the house was not yet so called) 
from 1663. Thus fostered by the royal patronage, staged by 
those practically acquainted with the demands of the theatre and 
acted by distinguished actors, Thomas Betterton foremost among 
them, the stage entered, histrionically at least, on one of its most 
brilliant periods. To this the innovation, which rapidly became 
the rule, that women's parts should be acted by women, con- 
tributed not a little. For whatever the consequences from the 
point of view of society and morals, the superiority of the new 
actresses — many of them like Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Brace- 
girdle superior artists as well as beautiful women — over the 
squeaking boys of the previous age was patent. 

After the Restoration, Davenant, immersed in management, 
took no such position as an original dramatist as had been his 
in the previous reign. A second part of The Siege of Rhodes, 
acted and printed with the first part in 1662, is inferior like 
most sequels. The Siege and The Distresses (doubtless the 
same with The Spanish Lovers) are capable romantic comedies 
which the author carried over from earlier times. In The 
Playhouse to be Let, Davenant utilised the material of his two 
historical entertainments of the time of Cromwell, already men- 
tioned, to concoct a diversified performance, devoid of the slight- 
est pretensions to unity. Some topical satire on the untoward 
theatrical conditions during the recent suppression of the drama, 
may have carried it off. And in The Man's the Master we 
have a couple of the comedies of Scarron, rather cleverly com- 
bined. The rest of Davenant's work after the Restoration is 
made up of adaptations, chiefly of Shakespeare, in which he set 
a vicious example, the continuance of which has gone on to our 
present day. Thus, Davenant's History, Murders, Life and 


Death of Macbeth was acted in 1666, " drest in all its finery, 
as new clothes, new scenes, machines, as flyings for the witches, 
with all the singing and dancing in it . . . being in the nature 
of an opera." ^ And Davenant's and Dryden's adaptation of 
The Tempest which duplicates the roles of Ferdinand and 
Miranda on contrasted islands and gives Caliban a sister, was 
staged with unexampled effects in the next year. Both enjoyed 
an extraordinary success. Killigrew, who had become groom 
of the king's bedchamber and later chamberlain to the queen, 
contented himself, so far as his own works were concerned, with 
the revival of his Parson's Wedding against which, when it was 
scandalously acted only by women, even the easy-going Pepys 

The repertory of the earlier years of the Restoration was 
made up largely of revivals- of the older drama, Fletcher lead- 
ing In popularity, with Shakespeare a close second. After 
Davenant's example, it became the custom to alter the older 
plays on these revivals, a thing which indeed had long before 
been done, but never so brazenly avowed. There was scarcely 
a playv^-right, from Dryden and Betterton to Vanbrugh and 
Farquhar who did not tako-part in this merry game of pillaging 
and " improving " the works of their predecessors. Earliest in 
point of time, were several pieces of dramatic journalism, sati- 
rizing the Puritans and their discomfiture, such as The Rump 
or the Mirror of the Late Time^ by Tatham, Sir Robert 
Howard's Committee, Crowne's City Politics and Lacy's Old 
Troupe; and here belongs Cowley's revival of an older comedy 
under the title of Cutter of Coleman Street. The comedies of 
several " gentlemen of quality," too, were staged in the sixties, 
one of Sir Robert Stapylton, one of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, 
and a very few of the many penned by the Duke of Newcastle and 
the innumerable more by his literary Duchess.^ None of these 
productions are memorable. Indeed, until Dryden came, in the 
drama, to his own, but one playwright stands out with any dis- 
tinctness. This was John Wilson, born at Plymouth and a 
lawyer by profession, who became later secretary to the Duke of 

iDownes, Roscius Anglicanus, p. 33. 

^The Stepmother by Stapylton, 1664; Mr. Anthony, probably Or- 
rery's; The Humorous Lovers and The Triumphant Widow of New- 
castle were both acted before 1673. The work of the Duchess is ear- 
lier as an edition of twenty-one of her plays was printed in 1662. 


York in Ireland and recorder of Londonderry. Wilson's four 
plays belong to the earliest years of the new reign ; and the first 
of them, The Cheats, enjoyed an unusual as well as a deserved 
popularity. This comedy deals with the quack astrologer, the 
sharking bravo, the Puritan hypocrite, all of them stock per- 
sonages and frankly conceived in the manner of Jonson. The 
very name of Wilson's second comedy, The Projectors, pro- 
claims it of the same type ; and Wilson's names for his person- 
ages, Bilboe the swaggerer. Scruple the Puritan minister, Suck- 
dry the usurer and Sir Gudgeon Credulous his dupe, declare 
how true " a son of Ben " the author was. But Wilson in these 
vigorous and able comedies has succeeded in imitating the best 
of his master and stands high in his class. In another of Wil- 
son's plays, Belphegor or the Marriage of the Devil, the author 
treated a story of Machiavelli, already employed by Jonson in 
The Devil is an Ass. But Wilson's work is his own and no 
mere adaptation after the custom of his time. Lastly in 
Andronicus Comnenius we have an exceedingly well constructed 
tragedy, conceived with power and written in a strong-fibred 
blank verse that recalls an earlier age. Here, too, although the 
historical material closely parallels the story of Richard III, 
Wilson displays a literary conscience, strange in his or any 
other day in the drama, and refutes any possible charge of bor- 
rowing by his inventiveness and originality. Wilson came too 
late. In an earlier age he might have taken an even higher 
place with his manly talents as a dramatist. 

John Drj^den was bom of a good family which, on both sides, 
had lent its aid and countenance to the Puritan cause. The 
poet was educated at Westminster and at Trinity College, Cam- 
bridge, where, however, he proceeded only to his bachelor's de- 
gree. His father dying in 1654, Dryden came into a small 
estate, which was increased somewhat by his marriage with Lady 
Elizabeth Howard with whose brother. Sir Robert Howard, the 
poet was intimate from his youth and with whom he collaborated 
in his first heroic play, The Indian Queen. Dryden began his 
career as a poet in 1658 with a panegjTic in heroic stanzas on 
the death of Cromwell. This was followed in publication by 
Astrea Redux, a similar poem on the happy restoration of King 
Charles. Dryden was a young man with his way to make. He 
swam with the tide at a moment when everybody, save an occa- 
sional Marvell or Milton, was doing likewise. The new the- 
atrical ventures of Killigrew and Davenant soon offered Dryden 


an opportunity of another kind; and, after one or two false 
starts, he reached a qualified success in The Rival Ladies, 1664. 

Into the details of the interesting literary career of Dryden at 
large, his successes as a panegyrist, satirist, translator, critic and 
general poet, it is impossible to enter here. His controversy with 
Sir Robert Howard as to the use of rhyme in the drama belongs 
to the years immediately following his first dramatic recogni- 
tion; and here he was interrupted by the intervention of the 
plague and the consequent closing of the theatres for a time. 
In 1667 Dryden renewed his dramatic efforts with Secret Love, 
the highly successful play in which the acting of Nell Gwyn 
reached the heart of her susceptible royal lover ; and the associa- 
tion of Dryden with Davenant and the Duke's theatre followed 
and, later, a more permanent agreement with the King's players 
on Dryden's part to supply that company with three plays a 
year. For this Dryden was to receive a share in the profits of 
the company; and this he did receive, notwithstanding that he 
never contributed more than one play within a single year. 
Later, difficulties arising, Dryden transferred his services back 
to the rival house. In 1670, he succeeded Davenant as poet 
laureate. This put Dlrj-den, on its face, in a solid financial posi- 
tion ; but so irregularly paid were all the offices of the crown, 
in the impecunious court of Charles, that Dryden, no less than 
preceding dramatists, was compelled to write for his bread. It 
was this necessity that palliates, if it cannot excuse, the poet's 
complacency in writing so loosely in comedy that even that loose 
age at times decried him; and it was this doubtless, too, that 
caused him to attempt to catch the popular taste in a gross 
misrepresentation of the Dutch in their alleged cruelties to Eng- 
lish merchants, in Amboyna, and to perpetrate the bitter attack 
upon the Roman clergy, in the time of the excitement of the 
Popish plot, that the character of the Spanish friar, in the play 
of that title, conveys. 

Between 1668 and 1681 no less than fourteen plays of various 
kinds came from the productive pen of Dryden, who, be it re- 
membered, was writing much besides. Comedy, tragicomedy, 
the new heroic play, the new hybrid, opera, tragedy in the older 
manner, tragedy in the new manner of Corneille, all these things 
were attempted and — everything considered — surprisingly 
well accomplished by this extraordinary, industrious, adaptable 
and brilliant genius. Dryden, with all his triumphs, was not 
altogether a dramatist by nature. He recognised his own com- 


parative failure in comedy, and in those fine, frank, lucid inter- 
vals that recur _ in his critical writings, acknowledged his own 
limitations. He wrote incessantly, both in season and out. 
Hence there is, in his dramatic writings, an extraordinary in- 
equality that ranges from the eloquent hyperbole of the heroic 
plays and from tragedies in which he followed with honest 
freedom and individuality the footsteps of Shakespeare and 
Corneille, down to the garbling spoliation of Troilus and Cres- 
sida, the " tagging " of Paradise Lost into a rhymed opera, and 
the perpetration of the disgusting dramatic satire called Lim- 

The most recent authority on Drj'den has given us so excel- 
lent a classification of the plays of the poet that we can not do 
better than follow it.^ First, the comedies, some six in num- 
ber, range from The Wild Gallant, a failure in 1663, to 
Amphitryon, a deserved success, in 1690. Of the others, The 
Assignation and Marriage a la Mode are altogether negligible, 
and Limberham, already adverted to, while better planned and 
written than almost any of the group, is of an intolerable gross- 
ness. Sir Martin Mar-all, which dates 1667, enjoyed a long 
continued popularity in the author's life-time and, we may agree, 
is " the most uniformly amusing of Dryden's comic plays," not- 
withstanding that he is alleged in it merely to have " corrected " 
previous work by the Duke of Newcastle on the basis of a com- 
bination of two comedies respectively of Moliere and Quinault. 
Amphitryon is an exceedingly diverting comedy on the old story 
of Jupiter's visit to Alcmena which Plautus himself doubtless 
borrowed from an earlier Greek comic poet and Moliere tried 
his hand at as well. The comic situation of the two Sosias, it 
will be recalled, is that of the two Dromios, prolonged and 
amplified. It can not be denied that Dryden has bettered his 
Greek and French models, for his work is far more than an 
adaptation of either. Dryden's comedy, like everything else that 
he attempted, is admirably written; his touch on occasion is 
light, his wit abundant. What he lacks is the moisture of hu- 
mour. While he is clever enough in construction and uniformly 
happy in his dialogue, his ability to portray and differentiate 
character falls short of that of many lesser play^vrights. Few 
better illustrations of this could be found than Domenic, the 

3 Sir Augustus Ward in The Cambridge History of English Litera- 
ture, viii, pp. 15-33. 


famous and popular personage who gives title to The Spanish 
Friar, which is more a comedy than a serious drama from his 
prominence in it. A momentary comparison of Dryden's friar 
with Falstaff discloses the difference. Both are gross, fat, 
essentially dishonest and knavish; yet, from their humorous 
appeal, intended to be attractive rather than repellent. We 
condone the lies and transgressions of Falstaff, open and pal- 
pable though they are, because of his inimitable wit and charm. 
In contrast, we may well believe that the success of Domenic 
depended largely on the actor and that even Anthony Leigh, 
who. Gibber tells us, was so famed for the part, must have 
struggled against the unsympathetic depravity of this would-be 
genial liar and disgrace to his order. 

A second group of Dryden's dramas are the tragicomedies in 
the old sense. The earliest is The Rival Ladies, of Spanish 
origin or example at least. In this, his second dramatic venture, 
two scenes are written in rhyme by way of experiment. The 
inartificiality in the device of two ladies, each in the disguise of 
a page for love of the same man, leads to some pretty complica- 
tions, but is proof of the dramatist's immaturity; the inroads of 
robbers, nicely timed to the action, suggest an acquaintance with 
some of Killigrew's tragicomedies or their sources. This sur- 
mise becomes a certainty in the case of Secret Love or the 
Maiden Queen, already mentioned, which is founded, as to the 
serious parts, on the famous romance of the day, Le Grand 
Cyrus. The light comedy part of Florimel seems written for 
the pert talents of Mistress Gwyn ; and, indeed, Dryden is never 
better in comedy than in the vivacious fencing of gallantry, 
which, however much he may have learned of the past, set a; 
model for many a scene to come.* Of The Spanish Friar 
enough has been said. The remaining tragicomedy is Love 
Triumphant, the poet's latest work for the stage, acted in 1694 
and a failure. The best that can be said for it is that Dryden 
seems in this instance, as in some others, to have been working 
against the grain, for not only is the action " forced and un- 
natural," but even his habitual command of verse fails him at 

* Cf. especially the mock articles of agreement between Florizel and 
Celadon with the similar scene of Congreve's fVay of the World be- 
tween Millamont and Mirabell. 


In the heroic play, using that term in its strictest acceptation, 
we have the most characteristic group of the dramas of Dryden. 
There are two ways in which to view the heroic play. One, 
which it is not to be denied certain of the utterances of the poet 
himself go far to warrant, makes the term equivalent practically 
to a drama written in rhyming couplets.^ If we look some- 
what more closely into the matter, we see at once that there is 
something more in the heroic play than this. It was no less 
a person than Davenant who first employed the term, " heroique 
play," to designate not only his Siege of Rhodes (which he calls 
elsewhere an opera) but likewise his blank-verse tragicomedy, 
Love and Honour, as we have already seen. That play, if we 
look back to its paternity, marks only a step from such dramas 
of Fletcher as The Knight of Malta or The Loyal Subject, 
in which heightened situation and personages conceived in the 
dilation of heroic passion hold contest in generosity, mag- 
nanimity, faithfulness to plighted word and other of the larger 
virtues. The heroic, indeed, is an element of incessant recur- 
rence in the drama as in other art. It crops out in Alphonsus 
of Aragon who levies tribute on three continents, in Tambur- 
laine who conquers the world, in Bussy D'Ambois whose 
proud heart will yield to no man. This is the hero superhuman, 
the hero of the old exorbitant romantic drama of action and may 
be classified as an excess of the hero passionate which is ex- 
emplified in Lear, Othello or Macbeth. Now the heroic spirit 
in the newer drama, beginning with Fletcher, is of a totally 
different type; it expresses itself primarily neither in action nor 
in passion, but in heightened sentiment. Substituted for event 
and character, we have analysis of conduct ; in place of the 
hyperbole of poetry, we have, too often, merely the flights of 
rhetoric. Exaggeration here leads, as I have written else- 
where, not to the dilation of the supernatural, but to the 
humanly extraordinary and amazing. " The hero superhuman 
and the hero passionate have been displaced by the hero super- 
sensitive, by ' the paragon of virtue and the pattern of noble 
conduct.' The themes of the heroic drama are ' honour won 
by valour,' and ' valour inspired by love.' ' Its rivalries are 
rivalries in nobility of soul ; ' its combats, less those of the sword 

^ See L. N. Chase, The English Heroic Play, 1903, pp. 3 and the list 
«f rhyming plays in which even comedies are included. 


than those of fortitude, loyalty, and the sacrifice to honour and 
plighted word." ^ 

The personages of the heroic play are of exalted rank, its 
scene lies in some outlandish country — Mexico, China, Tar- 
tary, Persia — or one indeterminate geographically at least. 
Its background is one of war, conspiracy and court intrigue. 
Now all this is Fletcher; and equally Fletcherian is the ac- 
cepted method of the heroic play, that of a heightened contrast. 
Some have found a greater simplicity of plot characteristic of 
the heroic play, a quality in which its greatest exemplar, The 
Conquest of Granada, is far from conspicuous. But simplicity 
of plot was one of Shirley's contributions to the tragicomedy of 
his time; a characteristic which was by no means folloxved by 
the degenerate imitators of the heroic in Fletcher, to wit, Car- 
lell, Killigrew and their like. As to the sources of the heroic 
play in Spanish fiction and drama and, more immediately, in the 
French romances, Fletcher had already broached the first, Mas- 
singer the second, and Fletcher, still again, with Killigrew and 
Carlell after him the last. So that, when everything has been 
said, all that the authors of the new heroic play accomplished 
by way of actual novelty was to exaggerate what had already 
been exaggerated, to heighten still more and make more florid 
an already exalted diction, and to substitute for the supple 
blank-verse of Fletcher or the hybrid prose-verse of Carlell, 
the regular tread of the rhymed couplet. 

A nice question here arises: who first wrote rhyming plays? 
In the old age, the group of dramatic writers that imitated 
French tragedy in the manner of Seneca employed rhyme and 
many a poetic play of the same earlier time had done likewise. 
So a rhyming play was really no new thing. It was the rhym- 
ing heroic play that was the innovation, — the form clearly sug- 
gested by the practice of French tragedy — and the question 
who first wrote in this particular manner in England lies be- 
tween Davenant, Sir Robert Howard, Roger Boyle Earl of 
Orrery, and Dryden. We may rule out Davenant, as his Siege 
of Rhodes is heroic but not strictly a play ; the claim of Howard 
is wrapped up with that of Dryden. The order of the earliest 
group of rhyming heroic plays is The Indian Queen by Howard 
and Dryden, acted in January 1664; Henry V by Orrery, in 

« Elizabethan Drama, 1908, ii, 349, where the topic is discussed more 
at large. 



August of the same year, and his Mustapha, April 1665. Of 
Dryden's Indian Emperor, a sequel to The Indian Queen, we 
only know that it was staged early in 1665. It may have 
preceded Mustapha; the question is not important. As to Sir 
Robert Howard, it may be remarked that both he and two 
brothers were emulous of success on the stage and wrote several 
plays among them. Sir Robert's comedy. The Committee, an 
attack on the defeated Puritans, and his Duke of Lerma de- 
served their contemporary success. The Earl of Orrery was 
alike a more important man and a better poet. He is a pleasing 
example of that large and interesting class of noblemen and 
statesmen in active life whose leisure is given to the assiduous 
cultivation of letters ; and no less than eight dramas attest that 
interest in his case. Four of these were acted in the sixties 
while the heroic craze was at its height. When it is recalled 
that Orrery had written in his youth a prose romance in the 
approved manner of Calprenede and the Scuderys, entitled 
Parthenissa, we are not surprised to find his Mustapha, his 
Tryphon (dealing we are told, with Syriac history) and his 
Herod the Great, all of the heroic type. Even in his History 
of Henry V, that prince and Owen Tudor heroically strive 
with a passion, which the Princess of France has inspired 
equally in both, and in devotion and sacrifice of self to their 
noble friendship. To return to the question of priority, Dry- 
den's interest in rhyming plays is traceable earlier than his first 
venture in writir\g one ; for not only have we the experimental 
scenes in rhyme of The Rival Ladies, but, in the dedication of 
that play to the Earl of Orrery, the matter is discussed — first 
word of a long critical interest of Dryden in the subject — and 
his lordship is paid a neat compliment: "But, my lord, . 
I must remember to whom I speak, who have much better com- 
mended this way by your writing in it, than I can do by writing 
for it."^ The whole matter turns on Dryden's part and in- 
fluence in The Indian Queen, which must have been consider- 
able. The alleged priority of the Earl of Orrery in the appli- 
cation of heroic verse to the heroic play depends on a compli- 
ment by a poet who knew admirably how to pay compliments 
and never spared small matters of fact in the process. Dryden 
is the innovator, the leader In form, as in spirit, of the new 
heroic play. 

The list of rhymed plays already alluded to includes nearly 
fifty titles and ranges, in point of date (omitting The Siege of 


Rhodes and The Rival Ladies) from 1664 to 1680, with a few 
sporadic examples later. If we throw out of count the com- 
edies and other non-heroic pieces, the actual number of plays 
which fulfil the strict conditions of the rhyming heroic play is 
reduced to something not much more than half this number. 
On the other hand, if we classify by spirit, not by form alone, 
we can readily double the first list within the period in the now 
forgotten works of Lee, Crowne, Settle, Banks, Durfey and 
lesser men. Even Otway began in rhyming plays of the heroic 
type. But when all is said, Dryden not only set the fashion of 
the heroic play ; he was alone truly eminent in it ; for he alone 
of all these writers had the force, the eloquence and the sustain- 
ing poetry to carry this enormous weight of magnificence, noise, 
bustle, sentiment and exaggeration. To take an example, in the 
two parts of The Conquest of Granada, acted in 1670, Dryden 
is equally independent of the trammels of fact and of the dull 
sequence of historical events. His hero, Almanzor,_ supposed a 
Mahometan prince, is in reality the son of the Christian Duke 
of Arcos, and he carries out to the full the new heroic ideal. 
He is, to use Dryden's own words, " of an excessive and over- 
boiling courage ... a character of eccentric virtue ... I de- 
sign in him a roughness of character almost approaching to ar- 
rogance, but those errors are incident only to great spirits; [for 
his, too,] is a frank openness of nature, an easiness to forgive 
his'conq'uered enemies and to protect them in distress ; and, above 
all, an inviolable faith in his affections." Almanzor's actions 
are in keeping with these traits. He takes the weaker side, 
always and without question. He changes sides whenever he 
thinks himself personally ill-treated, and he brings unfailing 
victory to the party whose cause he espouses. He liberates his 
prisoners habitually without a ransom and obeys with absolute 
literalness whatever he believes to be the wishes of his beloved. 
Almahide, his incomparable lady, is no less noble in her unas- 
sailable fidelity and unexceptionable propriety of conduct. It is 
not until we are far advanced into the second part, that the hero 
is permitted so much as to kiss her hand. To give even in out- 
line the ins and outs of the action of The Conquest of Granada 
would take four or five pages of print in this size. Factions, 
dissensions, sallies, skirmishes, discoveries, and executions de- 
layed, mutinies, ordeals of battle, the visitations of ghosts and, 
ever and anon, " sighs and flames " from the three or four pairs 
of lovers whose protestations of fidelity or struggles of gen- 


erosity play an Incessant obligato to the trumpets of war — these 
are some of the contents of this play. The drama is obviously 
written for its great scenes; and the love-making, renunciations, 
and pleadings, the lofty decisions as to conduct and the eloquent 
bombast, all go to make a bewildering succession of brilliant and 
rapid scenes, under the spell of which, even in our own age — 
beguiled as we are by the banalities of grand opera — we might 
well fall the victim. It is much easier to laugh at the absurdi- 
ties of the heroic play, read in cold print, than to appreciate 
what must have been the charm of its novelty and the lofty 
nature of the ideals which it upheld in an age that needed moral 
ideals to sustain it beyond any English time that we know. As 
we read these heroic dramas of Dryden, we fall insensibly into 
the swing of his swift, agile succession of thought, sustained on 
a current of enthusiasm for these outlandish creatures of his 
imagination and though we find them again and again grotesque, 
judged by any standards that are ours, we can not wholly decry 
an art that was after all sincere in its way and eminently suc- 
cessful in the thing that it set out to do. 

With the success of The Conquest of Granada, imitation set 
in. In the next year, 1671, Elkana Settle, a clever and pre- 
sumptuous young man of three and twenty, produced his £ot- 
press of Morocco with rival magnificence and, by means of the 
influence of Rochester, the enemy of Dryden, the play was twice 
presented at court and was repeated by Betterton with signal 
approval on the popular stage. A few years later. Settle fol- 
lowed this up with his Ibrahim the Illustrious Bassa (direct 
from Calprenede), which enjoyed almost as enthusiastic a re- 
ception. But thrust in this manner into Dryden's glittering 
heroic car. Settle's fall was speedy. His petty politics and 
changes of party, with the absence of anything like poetic spirit 
or the uplift even of rhetoric in his work, soon reduced him to 
a more fitting sphere, that of poet of the city's pageantry. None 
the less his activity in writing for the stage continued in the 
production of nearly a score of plays; although the name of 
Settle is now remembered solely for Dryden's contemptuous 
portrait of him as Doeg in the second part of Absalom and 
Achitophel. An abler rival of Dryden, also brought forward 
by Rochester, was John Crowne, who began literary work in 
1665, with a prose romance, and some five or six years thereafter 
resorted to the stage. In his eight serious plays, written between 
1 67 1 and 1692, Crowne is eclectic enough in his practice but 


imitative throvichont of tlic passing; fashions of his time. Thus, 
his Cliarlrx I' III of i'rnnrc, mtcd in i(j72, is, like Orrery's 
Henry F, history transformed into heroic rhyming; drama, con- 
cocted with a love story which is wholly futitioiis; and his 
Destruction of Jerusalem, 1 677, is sheer imitation of The Con- 
quest of Cranada, even to heing written in two parts. This 
second play of Crowne's enjoyed a success on the stapc in- 
crcdihlc to us as we read its commonplace and unilluminated 
lines; and we realise how much these dramatic spectacles de- 
pended, then as now, on their ^or^eousness of costume, novelty 
of scenery, inneniousness of effect and the excitement of thinj2;s 
seen in crowds in the hewilderment of da/./linji li^ht. Crownc 
gave up rhyme when Dryden did so, writinj]; his most vigorous 
and original tranedy, The Ambitious Statesman, idjf), in hlank- 
verse on the lines of Marlowe and I'he Spanish Trafredy hut 
cmulatinj^ the extravat^aiice rather than the merits of those 
ancient plays. A^ain follow iiit^ Dryden, he reverted to classical 
suhjects in 'Thyestes, a tragedy of revoltiIl^i horror, in Darius, 
Re^rulus and Caligula, reducinji all the heroes of antiquity, after 
the accepted manner of his time, to conventional ^^[entlemen 
wholly preoccupied with the passion of love. Crowne's five 
comedies were acted hetween 1675 and itxH- They enjoyed 
a Kfcatc reputation than we feel it possihle to allow them now. 
The best of them. Sir (Jour/ly Nice lonj^ held the sta^e. But 
Crowne's m(;st interesting production is his " court masciue," 
Calisto which Rochester's influence ennaj2;ed him to prepare in 
1675, less to advance Crownc than to humiliate the laureate 
Dryden. Calisto is a well-written effort to revive a lost form, 
hut it is scarcely poetical. Crowne was an estimable man and 
he enjoyed the ^ood will of Kin^ Charles. Fortunate he was 
not and he drops out of si^ht in the m'neties. 

One other writer of heroic plays, from a certain spirit and 
fire that was in him as well as from his collaboration with 
Dryden, deserves more than v. passing mention. This is Na- 
thaniel Lee. Lee was the son of a nu'nister who had contrived 
to deserve well as a Presybterian in Cromwell's day and better, 
as a divine of the Church of F.n^land, later on. After leaving 
Cambridge, the youn^^er I^ee led a dissolute life, while enjoying 
the unstable patronajj:e of liuckingham and Rochester; and, after 
failure as an actor, despite extraordinary powers of elocution, 
became one of the most popular dramatists of his day. Lee 
rejoiced in ambitious subjects and in splendour of the settings 


of great historical personages; he was possessed of an extraordi- 
nary extravagance of imagination and an ear that delighted in 
sound and the volnnie of a large heroic utterance. It is not to 
he denied, that, in his huge and i)anorainic dramas, he glutted 
these tastes. With a frank acceptance of the suhstance, method 
and versification that Drych-n had sanctioned, I^ee threw himself 
passionately into the composition of his Nero, Sophonisba or 
I Innnihnl's Overthrow, his (iloruiiui or the Court of Aufiustus 
Ca-sar, The Rival Queens or Alexander the Great, all of them 
poured forth and acted, hetween 1 67 5 and 1677, In all their 
glory, exorhitance, erotic passion, poetry — for there Is poetry 
in them — and homhast. 'I'hey were followed hy similar 
dramas on Mithridates, Cajsar Horgia, Hrutus, Constantine, end- 
ing with The Massacre of I'aris in 1 690. In these latter, Lee 
followed his mentor Into hlank-versc. It would seem that this 
exuherant spirit would leave no historical hero unsuhjugated to 
this preposterous new land of heroic romance wherein a lovesick 
Haiuiihal loses Rome hecause of his infatuation for "a Capuan 
lady," and Alexander the Cireat hecomes the shuttlecock he- 
tween the hatfjedores of the two Imperious <|ueens. This drama, 
7'he Rival Queens, enjoyed an unexamided popularity and con- 
titnied to hold the stage to the days of {''dnuind Kean and Mrs. 
Siddons. Something of the secret of this success is explained in 
the words of Col ley Cihber who tells us: " When these flowing 
numbers came from the mouth of a IJetterton, the multitude no 
more desired sense to them, flian our musical connoisseurs think 
it essential in the celebrate airs of an Italian opera." ^ Ivec 
represents, whether In rhyme or In his plays in blank-verse — it 
matters nf)t which — the ne plus ultra of the species. To change 
in any wise, the heroic drama must become sane, and to become 
sane was to cease from heroics. As to the poet himself, who was 
a man of unquestionable talent, his dissipations brought him in 
1687 to the madhouse and, on his release, a return to them cost 
him his life. 

In 1 67 1, while The Conquest of Granada was still a new 
wonder, appeared the clever dramatic burlesque and satire en- 
titled The Rehearsal which ridiculed the whole species In admi- 
rable fooling and parody. Here Dryden was represented In the 
person of Hayes, in all his peculiarities of speech and habit, as 
in the act of superintending and commenting on a preliminary 
performance of one of his own plays. 'The Rehearsal Is the 

'' Apology, ed. R. W, Lowf, i, 105, quote:! by Ward, i!i, 409. 


work of the dissolute and witty Duke of Buckingham, assisted 
by several others, Clifford, Sprat and Butler (author of Hudi- 
bras) , it is said, among them. The play discloses neither unity 
of authorship nor unity of plan, and it was in process of mak- 
ing, it is reported, as far back as 1663, when Davenant was to 
have been the hero. Then Sir Robert Howard was to have 
taken Davenant's place; but performance, for which the play 
was ready in 1665, failing because of the plague, the drama was 
again rewritten and the new poet laureate made the butt of 
attack. The Rehearsal is after all no very venomous matter; 
the authors were content merely to laugh at the absurdities of 
the heroic spirit at large, the want of serious plotting or motive 
in plays of the type and the bombast and high-flown language 
in which much of them was written. The effort was an im- 
mediate success, both on the stage and in the many printed edi- 
tions that were called for; and Drj'den recognised, with his 
usual good sense, that the case was hopelessly against him and 
made no reply. Indeed the nickname Bayes clung to him ever 
after, and it is not impossible that The Rehearsal may have 
hastened Dryden's repudiation of rhyme for dramatic writing 
and his return to blank-verse, although this came later. To say, 
however, that The Rehearsal killed the heroic play, is to say far 
too much ; for the species continued in high repute for at least 
a decade after, animating, even later, the works of lesser or old 
fashioned men. A more certain influence of Buckingham's bur- 
lesque is its example for a line of like dramas among which 
Sheridan's Critic alone rivalled it in success. As to Dryden, 
two other dramas of his belong to the category of the rhyming 
heroic play. Tyrannic Love, which immediately preceded The 
Conquest of Granada, and Aureng-Zebe, with which his heroic 
series concludes, not staged until 1676. Both plays are abso- 
lutely within the type, although Tyrannic Love treats a subject 
somewhat more actually historic than usual among productions 
of its class, the subject of Maximin's persecution of the Chris- 
tians and the martyrdom of Saint Catherine. The tragedy of 
Aureng-Zebe only falls short of The Conquest of Granada be- 
cause it less extravagantly exhibits the characteristics of its class. 
The personage who gives his name to the play is described as the 
last descendant of Timur Kahn, and he was actually alive at the 
time of Dryden's play ; but, as Ward well observes, " his name 
can scarcely have come home more closely to Englishmen at 
large than that of Mithridates," and the play is wholly con- 


ventional in its setting and given over to the " factions," bustle, 
warfare and love-making of its kind. In Aureng-Zebe, the plot 
is clearer, the action less confused, the poetry, which is abundant, 
more restrained, for in it, as both the preface and the prologue 
attest, Dryden was wearying of restrictions of rhyme and 
recognising more and more how inferior was all his art of 
strenuous endeavour to the simple touch of Shakespeare and his 
healthier age.* 

Or Dryden's degradation of his dramatic art to pander to 
political prejudice and of his makings over of the work of 
greater men, enough has been said. His Duke of Guise, written 
in collaboration with Lee, is an example of both these things. 
The tragedy of CEdipus, written with the same collaborator, is 
a nobler play. Albion and Albanius, 1685, and King Arthur, 
1 69 1, are what Dryden called "operas," though the first is 
rather an elaborate political allegory in the manner of a masque 
and the second was suspected of concealing a similar second 
meaning. These productions are sustained throughout by Dry- 
den's poetry, which was equal apparently to any task put upon 
it, and they are better understood if we remember the Dryden 
of Absalom and Achitophel. Of the fame and the enemies 
which this great satire brought, all know who read. In the 
early eighties, Dryden held much of the literary dictatorship 
which had once been Jonson's, and he was greatly in request 
for his admirable prologues and epilogues in which especially he 
excelled. On the death of King Charles, James, his successor, 
continued the royal bounty to Dryden ; but that bounty was, as 
it had always been, precarious. At this time the poet avowed 
himself a Roman Catholic, for which change of faith, he was 
roundly abused by his enemies. It will be remembered that two 
famous argumentative poems of Dryden's disclose first why he 
was of the faith of England and then how he found a deeper 
religious contentment in the faith of Rome.® It is not necessary 
to explain Dryden's conduct in this respect as a discredit to his 
convictions, although his flattery of " great ones " and his de- 
pendency on the royal favour make the suggestion that his 
change of faith was unworthy, not a thing wholly incredible. 

8 See especially the epilogue to The Conquest of Granada, beginning 
with the words: "Spite of all his pride, a secret shame invades his 
breast at Shakespeare's sacred name." 

^ Religio Laid, 1682; The Hind and the Panther, 1687. 


With the Revolution of 1688, Dryden lost all his offices and 
had the mortification of seeing his rival and inferior, Thomas 
Shadwell, succeed him in the laureateship. Misfortune and 
ill health assailed him, but his mental powers remained un- 
failing and he continued his literary labours, translating and 
publishing to the end, howsoever his last play. Love Triumphant, 
had failed on the stage in 1694. Dryden died in May 1700. 
There remain three tragedies. All for Love, 1678, Don Se- 
bastian, 1690, and Cleomenes, 1692. Dryden was never better 
than when following with independence a great example. This 
was what he did in the first of these plays, and his example, on 
his own confession, was Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. 
By this time, Dryden's taste and sound understanding had re- 
volted against the rhyming heroics which he had essayed with 
such success; and acknowledging, as we have seen, the superior- 
ity of " an age less polished, more unskilled " than his own, he 
returned to blank-verse and a simpler and nobler dramatic art. 
Judged by abstract standards. All for Love is Dryden's finest 
play; for while he uses therein the subject of Shakespeare's 
greater tragedy, the conduct of the story, the conceptions of 
the great personages involved and the poetic vehicle by which 
all is conveyed are wholly Dryden's own. It is not to be denied 
that All for Love, estimated merely as a play, is of a superior 
construction, condensity and rapidity as contrasted with Antony 
and Cleopatra. And however we may prefer the larger and 
grander conception of the characters of these old-world lovers 
by the elder poet, Dryden assuredly carried out, in his more 
limited but intense realisation of their story, the thought con- 
veyed in the title of his play. All for Love, or the World Well 
Lost. By some Don Sebastian has been given an even higher 
place, no less an authority than Sir Walter Scott declaring that, 
" Shakespeare laid aside, it will perhaps be difficult to point out 
a play containing more animatory incident, impassioned language, 
and beautiful description." And, indeed, the much famed scene 
of reconciliation between Don Sebastian and Dorax can not 
be matched in our English drama for its exquisite portrayal of 
the highest realisation of the chivalric and generous heroic ideal. 
Lastly, in Cleomenes the Spartan Hero, in which he had some 
help from Southerne, Dryden once more achieved splendid work 
on the lines of a definite model, in this case contemporary 
French classical tragedy. A resemblance in situation and pathos 
has been discovered between Cleomenes and his son, in their 


extremity perishing of hunger, and the catastrophe of Caratach 
and the little Prince Hengo in Fletcher's Bonduca; and once 
more, as always, even when at his greatest, Dryden pales before 
the stronger, truer, less affected and less conscious drama of the 
Elizabethan age. 

Dryden's domination of his age in serious drama was absolute. 
No one thought of questioning his methods, his medium of ex- 
pression or his ideals. But his age, despite his own exemplary 
labours in the translations of Virgil and the Roman satirists, 
possessed less sympathy with the ancients than almost any time 
that had gone before. So while his crew of imitators followed 
Dryden's choice of classical story in the drama, not one of these 
productions can lay the slightest claim to any attempt either hon- 
estly to represent the life of the ancients or to reproduce in any 
degree the lofty spirit of Greek tragedy. It is only after con- 
templating the confusion, stridency, extravagance and barbarity 
of the heroic dramas and tragedies of the Restoration that we 
can appreciate to the full how truly the poetic soul of Milton 
" dwelt apart." Comus, with its exquisite poetical allegory, had 
raised the masque, in the d.ays of its degeneracy and abuse, to a 
permanent place in the categories of great and significant poetry. 
Samson Agonistes, licensed in 1 670, the very year of Dryden's 
inflated Conquest of Granada, reproduced, in its restrained con- 
duct of plot, its chaste and beautiful diction and its lofty theme, 
more nearly the conditions governing Attic tragedy, when at its 
best, than has any other play, before or since in our English 
language. Little need can there be in such a book as this to 
repeat what every schoolboy knows concerning the subject of 
Samson Agonistes in the biblical narrative of the Book of 
Judges, its conduct of plot in wonderfully close reproduction 
of the technical niceties of Greek tragedy, and the obvious 
analogy betweenthe heroic Samson, blind and fallen on evil 
days, and both the poet's affliction and sorrow and the lost 
cause of Puritanism so dear to his heart. It matters, indeed, 
very little that Milton's tragedy was neither written for the 
stage nor is dramatic in the sense in which an actable play is 
dramatic. As the sincere utterance of a great soul in time of 
anguish, a lament for a fallen cause and for hopes cruelly bruised, 
if not shattered, Samson Agonistes has a significance and a power 
infinitely above the ephemeral triumphs of Dryden and the rest 
of Milton's time-serving, man-fearing, ingenious and forgettable 


On the tragic stage but one contemporary of Dryden sur- 
passed him, and this was Thomas Otway. Born in 1652, the 
son of a clergyman in poor estate, the poet was educated at 
Winchester and at Oxford which he left without a degree. To 
failure at the university he soon added failure as an actor; 
and an unhappy and unrequited passion for the celebrated ac- 
tress, Mrs. Barry, almost completed his undoing. Otway was 
one of the many poets who languished in the fitful patronage 
of Rochester; although to that nobleman the poet owed his 
earliest encouragement and his opportunity. The first plays of 
Otway, Alcibiades and Don Carlos, were offered to the stage 
in 1675 and 1676, when the heroic play was still at its height, 
and both are written in the accepted heroic couplets. _ Don 
Carlos is a tragedy of much promise and, with Betterton in the 
title role, was an extraordinary success. Two adaptations fol- 
lowed, Titus and Berenice, from Racine, and The Cheats of 
Scapin, from Moliere, the latter holding the stage for genera- 
tions. The comedy. Friendship in Fashion, acted in 1678, was 
heartily applauded in its time; but it adds nothing in its flip- 
pant indecency to the author's reputation, nor can anything be 
said for Otway's flagrant plagiarism of the greater half of his 
Caius Marius from Romeo and Juliet. 

Putting aside two military comedies, in which the author 
drew upon his own experiences in Holland, there remain The 
Orphan and Venice Preserved, the tragedies which raise the 
name of Otway to a place notable among the few of his age. 
The former, first acted in 1680, details the tragical consequences 
that followed the impersonation of a bridegroom by another on 
the wedding night, a subject in which the strong taste of Ot- 
way's age found a pathos of which our horror at the situation 
almost totally deprives us. However this harrowing theme had 
already been employed and whatever the dramatist's debt to 
the novel entitled English Adventures, the intensity and 
poignancy of the emotions which Otway raised in this play 
were quite new to the stage of his period. It is reported^ that 
Mrs. Barry, who created the role of Monimia, the injured 
heroine " invariably burst into genuine tears in the course of 
the performance," and the tragedy long continued, like Venice 
Preserved, which followed it in 1684, one of the great stock 
pieces, certain of appreciation and applause. The latter tragedy 
is a free dramatic version of an obscure episode in the late his- 


tory of Venice, and Otway had it from an English translation 
of the French of the Abbe Saint-Real, a writer already employed 
by him for the source of Don Carlos. It is not unlikely that 
Otway was willing to have his drama recognised, in its picture 
of Venice, weak and demoralised by the social and political 
corruption of its own senators, as symbolic, at least,^ of England 
in a similar condition during the recent great conspiracy known 
as the Popish Plot. In this it was, like many a play of its time, 
" a Tory document against the Whigs." But with all this, 
including the vilification of that much abused statesman, the 
Earl of Shaftesbury, in the vile Antonio, we need not concern 
ourselves. Venice Preserved has lived for something very dif- 
ferent. For in it Otway has created two novel and truly tragi- 
cal figures, the nobility and pathos of which it would be difficult 
elsewhere to equal: Jaffeir whom poverty and outrageous treat- 
ment have driven from despair into conspiracy, distracted be- 
tween fidelity to his friend and fellow-conspirator and his 
devotion to an incomparable wife ; and Belvidera, the wife, who, 
though repudiated by her father for her marriage and devotedly 
attached to her husband, none the less sacrifices husband and 
self to save the state. Nothing could be finer than the tender- 
ness and pathos of the scenes between this devoted pair in this 
tragedy, nor anything more complete than the catastrophe in 
which the innately noble, though weak and unstable, Jaffeir, 
perfidiously defrauded of a promised amnesty for himself and 
his friend, kills both to cheat a felon's death on the scaffold. 
Constructive excellence, a clear and easy flowing diction and a 
poet's command of imagery, as well as the technicalities of an 
admirably smooth yet varied blank-verse, these things are Ot- 
way's. But above them all is his power to portray in his per- 
sonages the tenderness of those who love and the throes and 
anguish which the virtuous and innocent suffer among the tragic 
vicissitudes and tossings of life. Otway's instrument contains 
not too many notes ; but its few are of a surpassing and poignant 
sadness and sweetness. To those who can see in the fog and 
contagion of life somewhat more than the distortion and ruin of 
things, it may be possible to think of Otway as the one true 
lover of his faithless time, pouring out his own suffering heart 
in works of art to make immortal the woman whom he adored. 
To those, on the other hand, who are content that fog shall be 
fog and contagion contagion, the unhappy poet seems no more 


than one of the many men of talent whom association with the 
corrupt Rochester and a misplaced infatuation for a clever, but 
heartless and mercenary wanton, ruined body and soul. 

Save for a few minor plays of the political reaction, Wilson's 
honourable following of Jonson, and Dryden's contributions 
to the lighter muse, trifling in comparison with his serious plays, 
the comedy of the Restoration remains for our consideration. 
Among older plays revived after the return of the icing, the 
comedies of Fletcher and of Jonson, with a smaller number of 
Shakespeare's, still held the stage, and Davenant and Killigrew 
naturally staged work of their own and of their friends, the 
Howards, Stapylton, Orrery and others. But foreign influences 
made themselves manifest almost at once, in comedy as in trag- 
edy; indeed it is better to recognise, in these influences, the 
continuance of what had gone before than to explain the new 
age, as was formerly done, as a more or less complete repudia- 
tion of England's own past. The important role which Fletcher 
played in opening the coffers of Spanish literature to the Eng- 
lish drama has already been set forth, and it is sufficient for 
our purposes here to remember that his subjects of the kind 
were drawn, so far as we now know, wholly from Spanish 
fiction, and that it is not necessary to infer on his part — or 
on that of Massinger or Rowley, for that matter — either an 
acquaintance with the Spanish language or any knowledge of 
the Spanish stage. Even with Shirley, plays of whom have 
been confidently ascribed to sources in the dramas of Lope de 
Vega and Tirso de Molina, we are not on sure ground as to 
the precise nature and extent of these borrowings. In the last 
two volumes of Dodsley's Old Plays, several dramas, Spanish 
in scene, are to be found ; most of them date before the Restora- 
tion.^" It is likely that Sir Richard Fanshawe's translation of 
a couple of the plays of Antonio de Mendoza never reached the 
stage; but in Sir Samuel Tuke's Adventures of Five Hours, 
1662, and the Earl of Bristol's Elvira, printed five years later, 
we have certain examples of the adaptation of Spanish dramas 
to the English stage. The Spanish comedia de capa y espada 
has been alluded to in these pages more than once. The recipe 
for its making is simple: two ladies, a gallant and his friend, 

10 These are The Rebellion, by Thomas Rawlins; The Marriage 
Night, by Henry Viscount Falkland, and The Parson's fVedding, by 
Thomas Killigrew. 


their lovers; a jealous brother or a difficult father, with the 
attendant servants of all parties; mistakes, accidents, intrigue 
and involvement, honour touched and honour righted. Varia- 
tion on the theme is infinite. Of English adaptations of this 
type, Tuke's well-vi^ritten Adventures of Five Hours is by far 
the best. While the love that is intrigue and the touchiness, 
that go to make up much of what is accepted as Castilian 
honour, are the constant themes of the comedy of cloak and 
sword, it is a mistake to confuse such dramas with the heroic 
play, however the two may have reacted each upon the other. 
Without here entering into details, it is sufficient to notice that 
Orrery, Crowne, Mrs. Behn, and Wycherley, not to mention 
lesser names, all drew on Spanish comedies for some of their own 
and that Dryden himself was not unaffected by Spanish example, 
though perhaps less so than has sometimes been claimed. 

But these influences from Spain are not of great moment, 
and they were frequently derivative, usually by way of France. 
It is to the latter country that the drama of the Restoration 
contracted its heaviest debt, and what could be more natural 
when we consider that, aside from the extraordinary draughts 
upon the heroic prose romance, there were, for serious drama, 
the refined examples of Corneille and Racine (in the England of 
this time, misunderstood) and for comedy, the commanding 
genius of Moliere. As to the first, The Cid had been trans- 
lated by Joseph Rutter as far back as 1637 and just before the 
Restoration, Sir William Lowes and, just after it, Mrs. Kather- 
ine Philips ("the Matchless Orinda"), Carlell and others 
were busy with Polyeuctes, Horace, Pompee, Heraclius and 
Necomede, the last three successfully produced variously in 
Dublin and London. Racine was adapted somewhat later; 
Crowne's inadequate version of the Andromaque in 1675 and 
Otway's Titus and Berenice are almost the only traces of that 
poet in English drama prior to 1700. On the other hand, the 
debt of Restoration comedy to Moliere is extraordinary. His 
borrowers and beneficiaries include almost every name of im- 
portance from Davenant and Dryden to Shadwell and Wycher- 
ley; and some of the lesser people had their whole dramatic 
equipment of him. 

Possibly Restoration opera is as well mentioned here as any- 
where else, as the immediate foreign influence upon this biform 
hybrid of the drama was French and the librettos, as we should 
call them, are no serious matter at best. The introduction of 


Italian opera into France as far back as 1645 and the subse- 
quent transference of French opera to England are interesting 
subjects in themselves into which we can not here digress. It 
has been pertinently said, in view of all these alleged foreign 
influences, that " the manner in which instrumental interludes 
and dances and songs and passages of recitative were introduced 
into masques suggested the methods upon which composers 
might attempt incidental music to plays and operas." ^^ And 
indeed, Matthew Locke, whose music to Shadwell's Psyche is 
sometimes spoken of as the first attempt at English opera, had 
written music for Shirley's masque-like, Cupid and Death, as 
far back as 1653, and portions of the vocal poets for The Siege 
of Rhodes, as well as for the far later revival of The Tempest 
with the Davenant-Dryden " amendments." With precedents 
such as these, it became the custom to make much of the inci- 
dental music on revivals of old plays with new splendours, and 
the names of Locke and Purcell, especially, attach to many a 
revival and to almost as many new performances. Purcell's 
Dido and JEneas, presented in 1680, has the distinction of being 
the first example in England of a story told in continuous 
dramatic music. As such it perhaps deserves to the full the 
title of the earliest English opera, although it would be difficult 
to determine what degree of recitative or spoken dialogue in a 
production of this kind should bestow or deny to it the coveted 
designation. The music of Purcell's Dido and JEneas has been 
highly praised: the libretto was by Nahum Tate, later to be- 
come poet laureate. The performance was a private one and 
interesting only historically. When Dryden turned to the writ- 
ing of " opera," in Albion and Albanius, he employed Grabu, 
a foreign composer, to prepare the music; but, on his second 
venture, King Arthur, he returned to Purcell who had already 
written music for Aureng-Zebe and other plays. King Arthur, 
like its predecessor, is less an opera than " a play copiously sup- 
plied with incidental music." Indeed, when we examine the 
matter of opera in England before the coming of Handel, we 
find it, save for a few imported French performances, a vanish- 
ing quantity. Pepys uses the expression, " to the opera," habitu- 
ally to denote a visit to the Duke's theatre in Lincoln's Inn 
Fields where he saw, under this designation, Hamlet, Twelfth 

" See Sir C. H. H. Perry, " Music of the Seventeenth Century," 
Oxford History of Music, iii, 288. 


Night, Davenant's Love and Honour, and Glapthorne's comedy, 
Wit in a Constable, with a score of other plays. The word 
was doubtless employed by more careful speakers than Pepys to 
signify any play in which considerable attention was paid to the 
music and setting. 

Turning back to comedy, the earliest notable figure is that 
of Sir George Etherege who was born of good family in 1634. 
It is doubtful if Etherege was of either university, but he may 
have been at one of the Inns of Court. Possessed in all likeli- 
hood of some fortune, Etherege lived much abroad until the 
Restoration, and his easy knowledge of the French language and 
of French manners make it likely that he had spent much time 
in Paris. His work as a dramatist began with The Comical 
Revenge, or Love in a Tub, acted in 1664, the serious scenes 
of which are written in rhyme. This comedy was an immediate 
success and She Would If She Could and The Man of Mode 
(both written in prose), followed at long intervals after, the 
last in 1676. Both maintained and enhanced the author's 
repute for an easy ability to stage, with absolute freedom and 
abandon, the profligate manners of the fashionable society of 
his day. For, with his success, Etherege had joined the rout 
of Rochester, on more equal terms, however, than his lordship's 
creature poets, as a disgraceful broil at Epson and the dramatist's 
" protection " of Mrs. Barry after Rochester's death, both go 
to show. After marrying a fortune, Etherege went abroad and 
served as English resident, finally for several years at Ratisbon 
in Germany, where he appears to have lived riotously, neglect- 
ing his duties and finally losing his life, at Paris, in 1691 (it is 
supposed), in an accident that could hardly have befallen a 
sober man. It is a sordid story; yet this may be said for the 
comedy of Etherege, that it owed nothing to books or precedents. 
Fashionable, indolent, witty, charming and utterly profligate, 
Etherege knew at first hand the brilliant, shameless, deadly 
life in which he was alike a participant and a victim; and his 
conscienceless art enjoyed the popularity that an actual rescript 
of the time always deserves and usually obtains. Historically 
Etherege assumes importance when we consider that he deter- 
mined a whole species of comedy which persistently held the 
stage, through Wycherley, Congreve and Vanbrugh down to 
very late times, increasingly more divergent from actual life. 
Etherege copied the life he knew, his successors copied Etherege. 

Nearest to Etherege in point of time and literary manner is 


Sir Charles Sedley, second in notoriety for his wit and his prof- 
ligacy only to Rochester whom he resembles, too, in an ad- 
mirable sense for the graces of prose style and for no inconsider- 
able lyrical gift. Attention has lately been called, with much 
justice, to the fact that these gentlemen roisterers of the court 
of King Charles were " too flagrantly industrious in the pursuit 
of pleasure," too determined, in opposition to the gloom of 
detested Puritanism, to be happy at all events, to make us alto- 
gether certain that they were not frequently bored in the midst 
of their revelry and with all their dangerous hazards.^^ Sedley 
lived, like some others, to become a grave, if none too stable, 
politician. His plays reflect the influences of the moment; The 
Mulberry Garden (borrowed in idea partly from Moliere), is 
precisely of the type of Etherege's Comical Revenge, even to 
the writing of the serious scenes in rhyme; his Antony and 
Cleopatra, a feeble tragedy, is wholly in rhyme, because Dryden 
was so writing and on a classical subject for no better reason. 
Bellamira, 1687, is Sedley 's best play, for in it, however he 
drew on the Eunuchus of Terence for his plot, he presents a 
lively and realistic picture of the reckless life that he knew 
so well. In writing of Restoration comedy, it is impossible 
to avoid harping on the extraordinary license of speech and 
conduct which the stage accepted as a matter of course. With 
the taste and example of the king, the wits and the laureate 
before them, the minor writers of comedy supplied what was 
wanting in cleverness with the extravagance of license, while 
appropriating from the past with consciences absolutely at ease. 
John Lacy, who died as early as 1681, presumed upon his 
popularity as an actor to turn pla>'wright in some half dozen 
efforts in which he laid violent hands on Moliere, Shakespeare 
and lesser men, making coarser whatever he touched. Edward 
Ravenscroft was busy warming over the dramatic victuals of 
other men for twenty years. His plays are described, by 
Dibden, as " a series of thefts from beginning to end." His 
most popular comedy, London Cuckolds, first acted in 1682, 
was repeated on the lord mayor's day for nearly a hundred years 
for its vulgar, humorous and scurrilous satire on the city. 
Ravenscroft's one gift seems to have been that of boisterous 
farce, a gift, by the way, that has carried ofi many a mediocre 

12 See Mr. C. Whibley, in The Cambridge History of English Liter- 
ature, viii, 198 ff. 


play and worse with the help of clever actors. Abler, but of 
the same predatory class, was Mrs. Behn, interesting as the earli- 
est example of a woman in England who made her way as a 
professional author. Alphara Johnson was born at Wye about 
1640, and reared in the West Indies, where she had unusual 
experiences of which she made a literary use in her famous 
story, Oronooko. In 1 65 1, she married a Dutch merchant 
named Behn who maintained her in good circumstances in Lon- 
don. Losing her husband about the time of the Restoration, she 
lived abroad for a time at Antwerp, probably in the government 
employ as a spy. But being neglected and unpaid, she returned 
to England and began the writing of plays and fiction about 
1 67 1. Mrs. Behn's earliest efforts were romantic, tragedy even 
in one instance, lifted from Marlowe; but she soon went over 
to comedy in deference to the demands of her market. With 
Killigrew for a model, she made over two of his unacted 
comedies in The Rover, 1677, which proved to be her most 
popular play. For other work she borrowed from Brome, 
Massinger, Middleton, Wilkins and even Tatham, in The 
Dutch Lover, The City Heiress and The Widow Ranter doing 
her most characteristic work. She is fond of a swash-buckling 
hero, sound at heart (according to Restoration standards), but 
libertine in speech and conduct, and the certain victim of every 
pair of bright eyes. Her writing is inventive, lively and made 
up of incessant action; but she is boisterous, frivolous and a 
match for any of her male competitors in foulness of speech and 
frank immorality of dialogue and situation. Mrs. Behn knew 
her age only too well, and she catered acceptably to its demands. 
She was a clever and gifted woman who was forced to write 
for her bread; and she loved the coarse fare that went by the 
name of pleasure in her day. It is not fair to judge her by 
harsher standards than those that we apply to her male contem- 
poraries in the drama whose example she followed. 

As we look at the complacent and satisfied countenance of 
Thomas Shadwell, crowned with laurel, that faces the four 
volumes of his plays, dedicated to King William (who could 
not read them), and as we note how, for a period of nearly 
twenty years, beginning with 1668, there was scarcely a year in 
which a comedy of Shadwell's was not staged, often with ap- 
plause, we can not but wonder that all this industry and assur- 
ance of fame should be recompensed by so complete an oblivion. 
Shadwell, owing to his bitter political feud with Dryden, has 


suffered perhaps more than he deserves. Of an age with Mrs. 
Behn and Wycherley, King William's laureate received his edu- 
cation at Cambridge w^hich, however, he soon quitted for the 
Middle Temple. In his first endeavours he enjoyed the en- 
couragement of Dryden who wrote a prologue to The True 
Widow as late as 1679. In his day, indeed, Shadwell was a 
respectable figure, neither tampering with Shakespearean amend- 
ments nor with borrowings from France to a greater degree 
than his theatrical brethren, but holding at least one constant 
model before him for imitation and adoration. It is in the 
preface to his very first play, The Sullen Lovers, that Shadwell 
declares: " I have endeavoured to represent variety of humours 
. . . which was the practice of Ben Jonson, whom I think 
all dramatic poets ought to imitate, though none are like to come 
near, he being the only person that appears to me to have made 
perfect representations of human life." Shadwell endeavoured 
with honest industry, if not with any great illumination, to 
follow faithfully in those illustrious footsteps. In plays such as 
The Humorists, Epson Wells, The Virtuoso, and in the later 
Bury Fair, The Scourers and The Squire of Alsatia (esteemed 
his ablest comedy), Shadwell followed his model at a distance, 
often not greater than that of Cartwright or Brome, adapting 
his work to the " humours " of his own London, with the parade 
of an occasional moral and a more frequent descent to a coarse- 
ness and ribaldry below the level of Bartholomew Fair. Shad- 
well was a strong Protestant and a valiant Whig, both of which 
are abundantly proved in his outrageous attack upon " the 
Papists " in the scandalous character of Tegue O'Divelly, the 
Irish priest of The Lancashire Witches. The play came just 
at the time of the excitement consequent upon the lying revela- 
tions of Titus Oates, and undeniably had more to do with 
Shadwell's supplanting of Dryden In the laureateship than had 
his poetry. Shadwell is not to be denied a certain power in 
dramatic invention, a broad rough humour in realising " the 
fops and knaves " which he thought were " the fittest characters 
for comedy," and an honest sense of right which was blind, 
however, to generosity and delicacy alike. It is probable that 
his vigorous pictures of the low humours of the London of his 
day are at least as true to the life which they depict as the 
tediously reiterated gallantries of the school of Etherege and 

The long continuance of the activity of Shadwell, who died in 


1692, eight years before Dryden, has carried us forward. With 
William Wycherley, who was born the same year with Shad- 
well, we return once more to the earlier days of King Charles. 
Wycherley was educated first in France, at Queen's College, 
Oxford, and later at the Inner Temple. His position in life 
gave him access to that " best society " in which the king and 
Rochester were pattern and example. The comedies of Wycher- 
ley followed close on the earliest efforts of Etherege and Sedley, 
to whose school he unquestionably belongs, and they were 
written within the short period 'of five years from the success of 
Love in a Wood, in 1671 (which attracted to the author the 
somewhat questionable attentions of the Duchess of Cleveland), 
to The Plain Dealer, staged in 1 674. Between these came the 
other two, The Gentleman Dancing Master and The Country 
Wife. In comparison with Etherege, Wycherley's comedies are 
of stronger fibre and better constructed ; they are not nearly so 
well written. There is a vigour, however, a strength amount- 
ing at times almost to brutality about Wycherley that differenti- 
ates his " young gentlemen of the town," his coxcombs and match 
makers — to call his women no worse — from the superficial 
qualities of his predecessors. Wycherley was as frank a plagiary 
as any of his contemporaries, taking his Dancing Master from 
Calderon who in turn had found it in the bulging dramatic 
granaries of Lope de Vega ; while his Country Wife, one of the 
coarsest comedies in the English language, derives its plot from 
two popular comedies of Moliere. The Plain Dealer is 
Wycherley's most celebrated play, and, however it may have 
been suggested by certain scenes and personages of Le Mis- 
anthrope, was certainly made over by the English dramatist into 
something new and distinctive. Manly, a sea captain, is one 
whose natural honesty and frankness revolts at the hypocrisy 
and the faithlessness of the world. Instead of driving him 
from contact with his fellowmen, this creates in him such an 
infatuation for plain speaking and direct conduct, that these 
virtues become vices and the means of blinding him to the actual 
nature of the men and women about him. His mistress proves 
untrue, his bosom friend, false and an ingrate, and he is only 
saved from complete misanthropy by the faithfulness of the 
woman who, unknown to him, dearly loves him and serves him as 
a servant. In the gravity of Manly's disillusion and in the 
extraordinary and brutal demands upon Fidelia's devotion into 
which her master's eagerness for revenge betrays him, this 


comedy rises almost into tragedy. A diverting underplot is 
wholly of Wycherley's invention. The Plain Dealer is ad- 
mirably planned and managed, the characters are roughly but 
clearly sketched and the dialogue, as usual with Wycherley, is 
written in prose, unadorned, forceable and natural. The thing 
which raises Wycherley above his class, strange as it may ap- 
pear, is a certain moral earnestness which, despite the fact that 
there is scarcely a single truly virtuous person in all his drama, 
causes the careful reader to discern in all this brutality and 
plain speaking not a little of the gravity of true satire. After 
The Plain Dealer, Wycherley ceased to write, although he lived 
through various vicissitudes, an elderly man about town, now 
somewhat out of the mode, to receive a pension at the hands of 
King James and to form, in the reign of Queen Anne, a literary 
friendship with the precocious young poet. Pope. 

The vogue and popularity of the stage during the period of 
Dryden's literary activity rivalled the busiest days of Eliza- 
bethan or earlier Jacobean days. Never before had plays been 
so in request, so elaborately staged or acted by so many talented 
and capable players. As we read the theatrical annals of the 
time: how Mrs. Hughes ensnared Prince Rupert and Nell 
Gwyn the king; how the Earl of Oxford betrayed the virtuous 
Mrs. Davenport by a mock marriage ; of Mountfort dishonestly 
slain and of Goodman only too justly tried for a murder, we 
wonder that the drama could exist as an art in the midst of sur- 
roundings so foul and abandoned. But there is another side. 
Betterton made his debut in Hamlet in i66i, Mrs. Sanderson, 
soon to become Mrs. Betterton, playing the part of Ophelia. 
Fifty years later, this great actor took leave of the stage, its 
acknowledged leader, for a lifetime, despite all temporary rival- 
ries, and his wife was still by his side. Betterton was_ a man of 
sober, honest and industrious life, untouched by the vices of his 
age and equally the friend of Dryden the greatest poet, and 
Tillotson the greatest preacher of the day. His range of char- 
acters was enormous and his industry was only exceeded by his 
many gifts, and his success by his integrity and kindliness. It 
was sheer enthusiasm for the art of acting that took Rochester 
from the court and his dissolute pleasures to drill the tardy 
mind and unskilled gait of Mrs. Barry into the most consummate 
of actresses; and, however that lady may have repaid his lord- 
ship's condescensions, Mrs. Bracegirdle, her successor on the 
stage, lived in excellent private repute and was noted for her 


charities. As to the Restoration dramatists, Doran says that 
they exceeded in number the players and lists more than a hun- 
dred names. Indeed, nearly everybody wrote for the theatre. 
Besides the names already mentioned in this chapter — to add 
only two or three — there was John Banks, beginning in heroics 
rivalling Lee's, yet showing a certain melodramatic force in 
several plays of English historical subjects, treating of Essex, 
Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn, that attracted public ap- 
plause. There was Nahum Tate, almost the least of the poets 
laureate, a universal collaborator, giving us, among many other 
like things, a Kin^ Lear which is arranged to end happily with 
the marriage of Cordelia and Edgar, a version which Dr. John- 
son defended and which held the stjage into Victoria's reign. 
William Mountfort, the celebrated actor, followed Banks with 
English histories and wrote other plays, among thenri a Faustus 
enlarged especially as to its diablerie and " operatic effects " ; 
and Charles Hopkins, beloved for his sweet temper by Dryden 
and Southerne wrote " promising " tragedies on Pyrrhus and 
Boadicea. Thomas Southerne, although his work for the 
theatre began in the eighties in association with Dryden, wrote 
on far into the reign of King George I. His Fatal Marriage, 
long a favourite and revised by Garrick, was acted in 1694, 
and his almost equally popular dramatic version of Mrs. Behn's 
novel, Oronooko, followed two years later. Southerne was an 
amiable man and conspicuous, among his fellow playwrights, 
for his long, prosperous and happy life. His four comedies 
(which are cleanly but of no great merit), and his six or eight 
other plays (several of them dramatized novels) deserve the 
contemporary appreciation which they inspired. Southerne's 
distinctive quality is a certain ability to move in the representa- 
tion of pathetic situations in which he has been compared, not 
altogether unjustly, with Otway himself. Tom D'Urfey, the 
song writer, light hearted, convivial and imperturbably 
good humoured, began like Banks with heroic drama in the 
seventies, but carried his trivialities, dramatic and other, well 
over into the next age. It is something of a shock to recall that 
this Yorick of the court of the Stuarts was a nephew of Honore 
D'Urfe the dignified author of L'Astree. In the last decade 
of the century, too, Mrs. Behn was by no means alone in writ- 
ing for the stage. There was the amiable and learned Mrs. 
Cockburn (Catherine Trotter) who combined poetry and philo- 
sophy and rejoiced in the friendship of Locke and Congreve 


alike; there was Mrs. Pix (Mary Griffith), her friend who, 
innocent of theory or practice in verse, none the less penned 
tragedies, succeeding measureably in the lighter mode. And 
there was the disreputable Mrs. Manley, society novelist and 
scandal-monger, whose adventurous biography with its political 
controlling wires is more interesting to read than her half dozen 
forgotten plays. Mrs. Centlivre, the ablest of them all, began 
her work as a playwright later. The age was not unconscious 
of the innovation of women in authorship as a coarse but amus- 
ing comedy entitled The Female Wits at Rehearsal, acted in 
1697, goes to show. Lastly, the scholars and critics were 
equally addicted to the universal habit. Lord Lansdowne, the 
patron of Pope, put forth the last flicker of the heroic play in 
his Heroic Love, 1698, which is written in blank verse and deals 
with the love affairs of Achilles. He also imitated Congreve 
at a long interval in comedy. While the notorious critic, John 
Dennis, fellow of Rymer and Gildon both of whom " wrote 
plays," not only rewrote Shakespeare as he ought to have been 
written but laid futile mines to success on the stage by way of 
Euripides and Tasso, to find a modicum of recognition when he 
mixed the concoction with party politics and abuse. 

In William Congreve the artificial comedy of manners 
reaches its height. Born near Leeds, in 1670, the son of an 
officer whose professional duties carried him to Ireland, Con- 
greve attended the Kilkenny school where he had Swift for a 
schoolmate. On coming to London, his indolence unfitting him 
for the law, Congreve ventured into literature with a novel 
entitled Incognita, of no great merit or promise. His earliest 
play is The Old Bachelor; it was acted with success in January 
1693 and declared by Dryden the best first play that he had 
ever seen. The intricacy of the plot of The Double Dealer 
caused it to be not so well received ; but the performance of it, 
in November of the same year, drew from Dryden an enthusi- 
astic acclamation of the young dramatist as his poetic heir and 
successor with an exaggerated comparison of his talents to those 
of Shakespeare. In 1695, upon the secession of the older actors, 
headed by Betterton, from the patentee managers of Drury 
Lane, the opening of his new theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields 
was signalized by the performance of Congreve's Love for Love 
which achieved an instantaneous and brilliant success. In con- 
sequence, the author received a share in the house on promise 
to write for it one new play each year. This success brought 


Congreve, also, at the hands of Montagu, later Lord Halifax, 
an office as " commissioner of hackney coaches," the^ first of a 
happy series of like sinecures with which Congreve's political 
friends contrived to make easy his way of life, whether Tory 
ruled or Whig. In 1697, the poet's one venture into tragedy, 
The Mourning Bride, now remembered only for Dr. Johnson's 
eulogy, ran for thirteen days, an unusual time for the period, 
and saved the company from ruin; and with The Way of the 
World, which was coolly received in 1 700, the author gave up 
writing for the stage although he lived nearly thirty years there- 

Congreve has been variously estimated both as a man and an 
author. The man has been well described as " a gentleman of 
quality by nature " ; for his was ever the grand manner, the 
accepted course of conduct, the fitting word in that light, witty, 
risque skirmish of repartee that went by the name of polite 
conversation. Congreve had too much wit to be a fop and too 
much good sense to throw away his life in dissolute living. He 
was much petted in good society and his plays were enthusi- 
astically lauded and extolled. He took all naturally and grace- 
fully, and was not too much spoiled. Indeed he professed 
(perhaps not without affectation) little more than a languid 
interest in the writing of plays, explaining that his first comedy 
was written " to amuse himself in a slow recovery from a fit 
of sickness," and declaring that success on the stage for his 
famous The Way of the World was almost beyond his expecta- 
tion. When Voltaire called on him he insisted on receiving 
the visit as the civility of one gentleman to another, not as the 
meeting of two men of letters. None the less, Dryden, Swift, 
Addison, Steele, Gay and Pope, with many higher in station and 
less in prominence, valued his friendship and enjoyed it; while 
the fascinating Mrs. Bracegirdle, who created the leading female 
parts in all his plays, and Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, 
daughter of the great duke, were alike devoted to him and 
beneficiaries, according to station, under his will. 

The comedies of Congreve are of a literary excellence that 
overtops not only the comedies of their own age but that quality 
in all his imitators. There is no parallel in English to the 
directness, incisiveness, brilliancy and ease of his stage dialogue. 
And his personages, however they belong to the accepted cate- 
gories of fops, gallants and ladies of fashion and intrigue, are 
conceived and executed with an air and distinction that raises 


them as much above their fellows of Etherege, Wycherley or 
Vanbrugh as Congreve himself excelled in the company he so 
loved. The plots of Congreve have been criticised as alike in- 
sufficient and difficult to follow. But Congreve was little con- 
cerned with story, however he prided himself on the construc- 
tion of The Double Dealer, if what he had provided was thread 
enough on which to string the glittering beads of his epigram 
and repartee. It has been intimated above that the artificial 
comedy became less and less a transcript of life as successive 
playwrights accepted its conventions instead of observing afresh 
the life about them. Congreve's first comedy was written be- 
fore he knew anything of actual fashionable life; and his last 
repeated as cynically, if more elaborately, precisely the same 
sorts of personages, the same intrigues and situations. These 
comedies exhibited a total absence of any standard of rectitude 
or honour in any sense whatever of that misused word. Mr. 
Archer has well called Congreve's art " a picture of society ob- 
served from a standard of complete moral indifference," and as 
such, it can in no sense be considered true satire. Whatever 
of social amelioration may have taken place between the early 
days of King Charles and the decade in which Congreve wrote, 
we may not unjustly conceive of that dramatist as a perverse or 
rather inverted idealist in the kind of life that he chose to de- 
pict, who magnifies alike the " gallantry," the wit, the heart- 
lessness and the abandon of speech and conduct in this foul and 
glittering Utopia of his. There never were people quite so fas- 
cinatingly and brilliantly witty as Mirabel and gorgeous, petu- 
lant Mistress Millamont, these princes of the realms of the 
artificial comedy, nor beings quite so unutterably frivolous in 
their coxcombry as Brisk, Tattle or Witwood. And only the 
actual annals of the reign of King Charles can convince us that 
there were ever men and women as heartlessly wicked and de- 
praved as Maskwell, Fainall, Mrs. Frail and Lady Touchwood. 
Judged by any standards applicable to actual life this entire 
Restoration comedy is hopelessly immoral and corrupt. 
Whether we are able to achieve the detachment that may en- 
able us to accept it for its artistic and literary qualities (so far 
as it really possesses them) or anathematise it unconditionally 
with honest Jeremy Collier must depend less on our morals than 
on our attitude of mind. 

It was in 1698 that the famous attack of Collier, A Short 
View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, 


was printed. Collier was a non-juror, which distinguished him 
as widely as possible from Puritan pamphleteers, like Prj'nne, 
from whom such attacks usually emanated, and therefore gave 
to his words a sanction which others could not have. In his 
attitude of reprobation. Collier had had many respectable pred- 
ecessors, among them John Evelyn, the diarist, Sir Richard 
Blackmore and others. Moreover Collier's Short View is only 
one of more than two score like treatises of the author attack- 
ing " abuses," political, social and moral. Collier's pamphlet 
has been commonly estimated as " a noble protest against evil," 
bringing immediate reformatory results; and neither his sin- 
cerity nor the need for his words is, for a moment, to be ques- 
tioned. But even a cursory glance at his pages, with their 
minute but evasive particulars, in which he hopelessly confuses 
the representation of vice with the approval of it, and makes 
no allowance for appropriateness of character or situation, must 
convince the most careless reader that Collier's Short View is a 
much overrated work which sought the destruction, not the 
reformation of the stage, and that its success was " one of 
scandal and no more." ^^ In the controversy that followed, 
Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar and others took a hand and 
even Dryden, acknowledging his own short-comings, warily 
encouraged the fray from afar. But the wits had no case ; and 
despite a nugatory inquiry ordered by the crown and replies, 
rejoinders and surrejoinders lasting through many years, com- 
edy continued her impudent way, actually little bettered if in 
any wise affected by Collier and his controversy. It is neither 
true that the corruption of the stage set in with the Restoration 
nor that the attack of Collier brought about its reform. That 
reform, If it can be said to have come at all, came in other ways. 

13 See Mr. Whibley's " showing-up " of Collier in The Cambridge 
History of Literature, viii, 163-169. 



That two such minor names as these should head a chapter in 
the history- of our English drama, following the illustrious suc- 
cession that went before, may well give the thoughtful reader 
pause. Yet the great Augustan age, so famous for its wit and 
its satire, so satisfied that in it poetry and polite learning had 
reached a perfection beyond which it was impossible to conceive 
of a further advance, has no weightier names in comedy and 
tragedy to offer; and in the following reigns of the Georges, 
Goldsmith and Sheridan, the two that surpass them, stand his- 
torically more or less isolated and, in their talents, absolutely 
alone. It is true that the plays of older time still held the 
stage, those of Congreve, Wycherley, Vanbrugh, Otway and 
Dryden ; while the pre-Restoration drama was now represented 
almost wholly by Shakespeare, largely in bastard versions in the 
making of which noblemen and wits complacently vied with the 
playwrights. Poetry died out of the drama with Otway and 
Dryden, save for a spluttering in Lee and a flicker in Southerne ; 
the last glint is gone with Rowe. Literature and power over 
the phrase drops from Congreve to Steele, to be lost in excellent 
Cibber and his like, save for the satirical snap of Fieldmg, the 
light of Goldsmith and the flash of Sheridan. 

Dryden died in 1700, and Congreve ceased to write for the 
stage ; yet neither of these events nor the controversy that Col- 
lier had just raised in any wise materially altered the trend of 
the drama. An examination of the lists of first performances 
and revivals, kept by Genest, that careful enthusiast for our old 
drama, discloses The Rival Queens of Lee alone among the 
heroic plays in the frequency with which it was revived m the 
new century; although Dryden's Indian Emperor and Aureng- 
Zebe were occasionally acted, and The Rehearsal was repeated 
again and again, always with applause and appreciation. 
Clearly the heroic play was dead. Of Dryden's other dramatic 



works, few of the comedies were revived, unless we except 
Amphitryon and The Spanish Friar, which latter had caught 
the popular fancy, we may well believe, as much for its libel on 
the hated " Papist " clergy as for the humours of the incor- 
rigible personage who gives the play its name. Otherwise, it 
was to All for Love and Don Sebastian that the public awarded 
the palm among Dryden's plays, however CEdipus, Troilus and 
Cleomenes were less frequently acted. As to Congreve, not 
only did he maintain his original popularity, he increased his 
hold; The Double Dealer and The Way of the World, both 
of them qualified successes at first, were now fully accepted and 
The Mourning Bride was often reacted as well. Among the 
comedies of other writers, W)^cherley's Plain Dealer, Shad- 
well's Squire of Alsatia or Etherege's She Would if She Could 
appear to have led all others in popularity. Whilst among 
serious plays, outside of Shakespeare, The Orphan of Otway 
and his Venice Preserved had no rivals. As we look back, save 
for The Mourning Bride which was carried by Congreve's con- 
temporary popularity in comedy, this list is by no means a dis- 
credit to the taste of the time, although it shows in the comedies 
no revulsion against the careless immorality of speech and conduct 
which had become an accepted convention of the stage. Omitting 
any enumeration of less frequent revivals such as Otway 's Cheats 
of Scapin, Southerne's Fatal Marriage, or Crowne's Sir Courtly 
Nice, it is of interest to note how well the older dramatists held 
their own, though for the most part altered more or less to 
accord with prevalent taste. Of Mountfort's addition of " the 
humours of Harlequin and Scaramouch " to Marlowe's Doctor 
Faustus we have already heard; it was a deserved failure. 
More commonly these amended dramas of the older age were 
successful. As early as 1668, Davenant altered The Two 
Noble Kinsmen into The Rivals, Buckingham, if the critics 
are to be believed, took in hand The Chances to better it on the 
score of delicacy, while Settle " did " Philaster, Powell, Bon- 
dwca (bestowing four days on it), and Vanbrugh, The Pilgrim. 
Other plays of Fletcher appear to have been acted substantially 
as at first presented. One of the most popular of these was the 
lively comedy. Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, not amended 
before Garrick, and The Maid's Tragedy, despite the fifth act 
of Waller that transforms the story into a comedy, was acted, 
according to Southerne, in all its rigour and before King 
Charles. The most successful making over of a play of 


Fletcher's is Farquhar's Inconstant, lifted bodily, however im- 
proved for acting, from The Wild Goose Chase. Among other 
" old plays," the popularity of which is attested, were Mas- 
singer's New Way to Pay Old Debts, Brome's Jovial Crew, 
Webster's Appius and Virginia, which Betterton worked over 
and called The Roman Father, and Chapman's Bussy D'Ambois, 
considerably damaged by D'Urfey. Further into these revivals 
we need not here inquire. 

It was Shakespeare who was always the first quarry, and of 
some of these depredations upon him we have already heard. 
The subject, however, is of such interest, both in itself and for 
the light that it throws on the taste of the age, that a brief 
consideration of the nature and extent of some of these 
" changes " cannot here be out of place. During the fifty years 
following the Restoration no less than twenty-six rewritings, 
alterations and makings over of dramas of Shakespeare were 
made and the large majority of them acted. This list discloses 
some twenty different plays, the work of sixteen authors in- 
cluding three laureates, the actors Betterton, Lacy and Gibber, 
scholarly authors and critics such as Theobald, Dennis and 
Gildon, and hack writers like D'Urfey, Ravenscroft and Duf- 
fet.^ Several reasons have been assigned for this pdlage of 
Shakespeare and undoubtedly pressure for new material was the 
most important. It was this that must have actuated Davenant 
in his Law Against Lovers. 1662, the result of a union of the 
stories and much of the texts of Measure for Measure and 
Much Ado About Nothing, in which the Claudio-Hero plot 
drops out and the character of Mariana as well, and the play 
ends with Angelo's espousal of Isabella at the command of the 
duke. Pressure of time and utter carelessness as to the result 
alone could explain OtAvay's grotesque thrust of Caius Marms 
Into the role of Romeo with Sulla in that of County Pans. Eager- 
ness for novelty and pruriency, to the charge of which the whole 
age is open, account for the offensive additions made to the 
delightful and poetic conception of The Tempest, by which 
Ariel and Caliban each is provided with a sister and a 
youth who has never seen a woman is added to match Miranda 
and her sister " Dorlnda." So pleasing was this subject that 

1 See on the whole topic, G. R. Lounsbury, Shakespeare as a Dra- 
matic Artist, 1901, p. 302. To the twenty-six here mentioned may be 
added nearly double that number up to the end of the eighteenth cen- 


Shadwell transformed the reviser's work into an " opera " with 
new scenes and machines " admirably managed " besides songs 
and dances; and DufEet degraded it into a farce of the humour 
of the gutter in The Mock Tempest. It is the " new scenes 
and machines " with the spectacle involved that account not 
only for Shadwell's " opera " but for Macbeth, as revised in 
1672, "with alterations, amendments, additions and new 
songs " ; and so much were these features admired and accepted 
that Pepys declared it " a most excellent play in all respects 
especially in divertisement though it be a deep tragedy; which 
is a strange perfection in a tragedy, it being most proper here 
and suitable." ^ We need not wait until the Restoration to 
notice another feature of the popular taste that favoured altera- 
tions of our older pli^'s. Tragicomedy had been called into 
being from the shrinking of later audiences from the inevitability 
of tragedy and the happy ending came more and more to be 
demanded. As early as 1663, James Howard had rewritten 
Romeo and Juliet to end in the wedding of the now truly " ill 
starred lovers." This effort has fortunately been lost; but 
Tate's King Lear, into which are injected several pretty love 
scenes between Cordelia and Edgar (who in Shakespeare's 
tragedy do not even meet), long held the stage and even Gar- 
rick did not dare to return to the original tragic version. Here, 
too, is involved still another reason for these Shakespearean al- 
terations. Shakespeare recognises the love of man and woman 
as one of the many passions that animate mankind, and there 
are no love scenes the equal of his; but he recognised likewise 
the existence of other motives that are no less efficient for tragic 
than for comic use. We have already noticed that in the drama 
of the Restoration, comedy is almost solely preoccupied with 
the gallantry of amorous adventure and serious drama as un- 
dividedly with amorous passion or its reflexes, jealous enmity 
and revenge. For this various reasons have been assigned, 
among which the presence of women on the stage and their 
enormously larger proportion among the auditors, as contrasted 
with earlier times, are not to be overlooked. With Field or 
Kynaston, however complete their " makeup," affecting the 
graces of Viola or " boying " the greatness of Cleopatra on the 
stage, the illusion was at least sufficiently far from complete 
not to disturb the interest of the auditor in the play as a play. 

^ Pepys Diary, ed. Wheatley, 1904, vi, 125. 


On the other hand, the auditors of The Old Bachelor of Con- 
greve received with enthusiasm the stale and impossible denoue- 
ment of the marriage of the wrong woman in a mask, applaud- 
ing to the echo, Davies tells us, as each of the four beautiful 
women who acted in the play unmasked and disclosed her iden- 
tity. It was not only The Rival Queens that drew crowded 
houses; but Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Boutel, known rivals in their 
art as in their beauty for the favour of the town, and " the 
accident," whereby, on one occasion, the dagger of Roxana 
reached the bosom of Statira with more effect than the author 
had demanded, effaced, as it surpassed in fidelity to nature, all 
the eloquent bombast of Lee's inflated rhetoric. In such an 
atmosphere it was essential that the poets should strive to enliven 
the older plays by an infusion into them of this popular element. 
Hence it is that Crowne worked into his alterations of Henry 
VI " a good deal of love making in which Warwick the king 
maker, Edward Plantagenet, his future queen Lady Gray and 
a new character Lady Eleanor Butler all have a share." Hence 
Shadwell gave to Timon of Athens a daughter, divided be- 
tween the attentions of Alcibiades and those of a wealthier 
suitor, whilst Orrery, in an heroic play on Henry V, which has 
the merit at least of not having been stolen from Shakespeare, 
raised the love affairs of Catharine of France, Owen Tudor and 
the victor of Agincourt to an interest above that of the mere con- 
quest of kingdoms. 

The want of taste, of any sense of fitness, let alone poetry, 
is sufficiently illustrated in the examples above; but, from an- 
other point of view, something may be said for these changes as, 
to a certain degree, adjustments to the newer conditions of the 
stage. To anticipate slightly, when Gibber brought out his ver- 
sion of Richard III in 1700, showing a diffidence in offering 
it very different from the self-satisfied confidence of some of 
his predecessors, his effort was directed especially to an adapta- 
tion of the old chronicle play to the conditions of the stage of 
his time. Considered in the abstract, the epic succession of 
scenes, with their incessant change of place, their intermittent 
action and long conversations while the action halts, all of these 
characteristics of the chronicle play as a species, are wanting^ in 
that concentration, concreteness and unity that was becoming 
more and more the recognised ideal of dramatic construction. 
While Shakespeare's Richard III, from the unity which the 
grim protagonist gives to the play, is less open to this criticism 


than some other plays of its species, it is not to be questioned 
that its technique belongs to an sarlier age than that of Gibber. 
With his practical experience of the theatre, Gibber discovered 
this and attempted by omission, condensation and readjustment 
to render the tragedy more actable on his stage. In this he 
succeeded measurably although at the cost of much of the poetry 
and fitness of personage and episode all of which Shakespeare had 
so subtly wrought into one that no hand save his own dare 
touch them. Unhappily too, Gibber, doubting his own powers 
(as well he might), to mould together the dissevered parts, in- 
terpolated bits derived from other plays of Shakespeare, thus 
decorating with flowers, hopelessly withered from their context, 
the havoc he had made. I have dwelt upon this the most 
favourable of these alterations of Shakespeare — one that has 
held the stage almost to the present day — in order that we 
might comprehend the nature of the gyves which time had put 
upon the old free drama. The change was a momentous one; 
from a great popular utterance, claiming for its constituency the 
whole English people, safe in a broad appeal to love of country, 
the spirit of fair play, domestic virtue and capable, from its 
hold upon the emotions, of almost any flight into the realms of 
poetry and the imagination, English drama had shrunk into a 
thing of precedent and convention, governed by the laws of the 
ancients, as they were misunderstood and supposed to be prac- 
tised in the drama of a foreign country, or guided by the disso- 
lute taste of a court, which had long since gone its way to dis- 
solution, leaving only its heartlessness, its godlessness and 
libertinism to be mimicked by those who came after. The spirit 
of Shakespeare's drama was that of the people; the spirit of 
Dryden's drama that of the court; for faith in man we have 
cynical laughter and mistrust in goodness, for patriotism, as 
demonstrated in the old chronicle play, we have party politics 
with which not only comedy but serious drama is permeated, 
at times to its utter undoing. In our current criticism of the 
dramatic and literary technique of other times than our own, 
we are apt to judge too singly by our own standards. The 
model of old was to fill three hours' time with a varied enter- 
tainment, and fulness of illustration, even if some of it were 
irrelevant, was one of the conditions in which that particular 
form of art flourished. The drama of the seventeenth century 
was far from realising the modern ideal by which " the dram- 
atist seizes upon a crisis in the lives of his characters, states its 


conditions and follows its evolutions to an end," regarding every- 
thing else a surplusage. Yet in Gibber, as earlier in Congreve, 
we recognise an ideal above the practice of the time and in the 
case of Richard III a struggle toward the realisation of that 

With the heroic play dead and the artificial comedy of man- 
ners at its ne plus ultra, we may well inquire what it was that 
held over into the new century. We have first the continuance 
of this comedy in the hands of Vanbrugh, Farquhar and Gibber, 
with a suggestion of a reformation of its immorality, if not its 
frivolity, by the last, an attempt more seriously made a little 
later by Steele. And we have, in serious drama, a revulsion 
from the extravagances and unrealities of the heroic play and 
its like which begot an increasing interest in subjects historical 
and in those which, like Otway's two most famous plays and 
some of Southerne's, gave opportunity for a display of the ten- 
derer domestic emotions. If we except the classical frigidities of 
dramas like Addison's Cato, the trend of both comedy and 
tragedy in the reign of Queen Anne was clearly towards the 
sentimental, and in Steele and Rowe, as we shall see, the trans- 
formation is already assured, if not complete. This topic for 
the moment we must defer to turn back to the three notable 
followers of Gongreve, who began to write in the reign of 
King William and almost as early as he, but who carried their 
labours over into the next age. 

Sir John Vanbrugh was of Flemish descent on his father's 
side and well connected in England on his mother's. He was 
born in 1664, in London, and appears to have entered the army, 
being known in his earlier days as Gaptain Vanbrugh. We 
have a glimpse of him in Paris in 1692, imprisoned in the 
Bastile under suspicion of being a spy. He is said to have 
employed his enforced leisure there in meditating the scenes of 
a comedy. He was soon liberated and we hear no more of him 
until he emerges as an author in 1696. In 1682 the two com- 
panies, originally constituted, it will be remembered, as the 
King's and the Duke of York's, united ; and there succeeded a 
period of prosperity for all concerned. But disputes arising be- 
tween the patentees and the actors, Betterton, as we have already 
seen, seceded, in 1695, and started his rival company in Lincoln's 
Inn Fields with the success of Gongreve's Love for Love. This 
brought about evil days for the Royal company at Drury Lane, 
the actors' wages were reduced and the need of a rival success 


to make weight against Congreve became imperative. This 
rival play came from an unexpected quarter. Colley Gibber was 
a stage struck lad who had been haunting the theatres for five or 
six years, to be at last given small parts in which he had com- 
ported himself perhaps none too well. He was doing better 
however of late and when he submitted a comedy to the perusal 
of Southerne, entitled Love's Last Shift, Southerne advised its 
acceptance by the company and, being given the part of Sir 
Novelty Fashion, " an affected fop whose soul is everlastingly 
in pawn to his tailor," Gibber had the satisfaction of achieving 
at once the triumph of an actor and an author. Love's Last 
Shift is properly described as " a well constructed and effective 
comedy " and " deserving of the favour with which it was 
received." There was something novel as well as healthy in 
the subject, however its similitude of wit might fail before the 
sparkle of Gongreve. But to return, it was the success of Gib- 
ber's first comedy that turned Vanbrugh to the making of plays. 
Struck with the concluding situation of Love's Last Shift, 
Amanda's recovery of her recreant and penniless husband Love- 
less, after an eight years' wandering in pursuit of unlawful 
pleasure, Vanbrugh furnished, in The Relapse, so far as such a 
personage as Loveless is concerned, the inevitable, if cynical, 
sequel. In the upshot the author contrives in his way to pay 
his tribute to virtue and constancy in the character of the wife, 
a tribute that Gongreve would not even have thought of, and 
he elevates Gibber's Sir Novelty Fashion, which, with the 
author's clever acting, had caught the town, to a dramatic peer- 
age as Lord Foppington, the very prince of his diverting kind. 
In The Relapse we have at once the vivacity, gaiety and levity 
which characterise the happy art of Vanbrugh. He is little 
more a satirist in his presentation of fashionable life than 
was Etherege or Gongreve, for anything in the nature of a 
moral standard as a point of departure is almost as conspicu- 
ously absent in his work as in theirs. On the other hand, Van- 
brugh's lightness of spirit relieves his comedy, even in its fre- 
quent lapses from decorum, of a certain repulsiveness, not ab- 
sent from Gongreve, and gives to his wit an effect less pre- 
meditated and artificial. 

But Vanbrugh was already immersed in other aflfairs. He 
had become a member of the Greenwich Hospital Commission 
in association with Sir Christopher Wren as early as 1692 and, 
in 1702, his sudden leap to fame as architect of Castle Howard 


in Yorkshire suggests that he must have begun the practice of 
that profession far earlier. Among the many houses that he 
designed, the most famous is Blenheim which brought him end- 
less trouble and the lasting enmity of the Duchess of Marl- 
borough. In 1703, " Vanbrugh was created Clarenceux King 
at Arms, against the protest of the college and despite the facts 
that he knew nothing of heraldry and had openly ridiculed that 
grave science in one of his comedies." He held his post not- 
withstanding and acceptably fulfilled its duties. A few years 
later Vanbrugh became Controller of the Royal Works, which 
post he held until his death in 1726. In 1705 he designed a 
new theatre in the Haymarket and with Congreve who, really 
gave very little assistance, undertook the management of it. 
But what Avith the rural surroundings and the serious acoustic 
defects of the building, the venture proved a complete failure 
and Vanbrugh withdrew from his undertaking in a year's time, 
a heavy loser. To return to his comedies, in the same fruitful 
year, 1697, Vanbrugh brought out The Provoked Wife at the 
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. With Betterton, Mrs. Barry 
and Mrs. Bracegirdle in the cast, the play was a complete suc- 
cess. Superior in construction. The Provoked Wife sustained 
the author's repute, although it lapses into the utter moral 
callousness and flippancy of its school, without even a sugges- 
tion of a serious motive to sustain it. This was one of the 
plays justly singled out by Collier for attack, a subject to which 
we need not return. Vanbrugh's part in the replies to Collier 
was clever, as might be expected, though he was as blind as his 
fellows to the reality of the issue involved. In 1700, he re- 
wrote The Pilgrim of Fletcher in prose for the benefit of 
Dryden who contributed the prologue and epilogue, his last 
work for the stage. This performance is otherwise memorable 
as that in which the famous actress, Anne Oldfield, whose 
talents Farquhar had discovered in the previous year, made her 
debut. Of Vanbrugh's translations, chiefly from Moliere, the 
only one that deserved success, though it did not at once attain 
it, was The Confederacy, derived directly from d'Ancourt's 
comedy Les Bourgeoises a la Mode. It was acted in 1705 and 
with it Vanbrugh's labours as a dramatist conclude. 

Almost precisely correspondent in point of time with the 
comedies of Vanbrugh were those of Farquhar who resembled 
his competitor further in being likewise in the military service. 
George Farquhar was born in Londonderry in 1678, the son 


of an Irish clergyman, who could do little more for his son 
than offer him a good education. This he pursued for a time 
at Trinity College, Dublin, only too soon to fall a victim, like 
Lee and Otway before him, to the fascinations of the stage. 
Notwithstanding a prepossessing personality, Farquhar does 
not appear to have succeeded as an actor at the Smock Alley 
Theatre in Dublin where he made his first appearance as 
Othello; and the accidental wounding of a fellow actor in one 
of Dryden's plays brought him to the determination to abandon 
the stage. At this juncture his friend, the actor Wilks, later 
to become famous, induced Farquhar to follow him to London 
and, encouraged by him he offered Rich, the manager of Drury 
Lane, his first comedy, Love in a Bottle, which was acted, late 
in 1698, and favourably received. Through the good offices of 
Orrery, it is said, the young dramatist received a lieutenancy, 
but save for a brief absence in Holland, which may have been 
with his regiment, and a recruiting trip to Shrewsbury, Far- 
quhar's soldiering interfered very little with his play writing. 
In 1700, the acting of Wilks in the part of Sir Harry Wildair 
in Farquhar's second play, The Constant Couple, so took the 
town that the success was followed up by a sequel in which that 
" son of chaos," as the character has been well called, gives his 
name to the play. The Inconstant, an able adaptation of The 
Wild Goose Chase of Fletcher, was not received with the 
favour which its merits demanded, nor did a better fate attend 
The Twin Rivals acted in the same year. The Recruiting 
Officer, on the other hand, based on the author's actual experi- 
ences, however fancifully enlarged, enjoyed an extraordinary 
success in its performance in 1706, and long continued a favour- 
ite stock piece. Farquhar was possessed of the gay, irresponsible 
nature that is habitually associated with the Celt. No success 
could relieve him of his incurable impecuniosity, no failure en- 
tirely dash his buoyant spirits. With neither fortune nor posi- 
tion to back him, he lived the gay life of his time and, despite 
the successes of his comedies, fell heavily into debt. Two 
anecdotes are related concerning the later years of his life. 
The first tells how a lady, almost as needy as himself, fell so 
desperately in love with him, that she represented herself to the 
credulous poet as a wealthy heiress thereby to justify their 
otherwise imprudent marriage which actually took place; the 
other, how on the advice of the Duke of Ormond, Farquhar 
sold his commission to pay his debts, " his grace promising, 


should this course be adopted, to give Farquhar a captaincy in 
his own regiment," a promise that his grace forgot. Farquhar 
died in poverty when less than thirty years old, a month after 
the triumphant success of his Beaux' Stratagem, leaving a touch- 
ing letter to his friend Wilks beseeching him to care for his 
two fatherless daughters. 

In one of the ablest estimates we have of Farquhar as a 
dramatist, we are pertinently reminded of his youth and his 
promise; how the latest of the group — Vanbrugh, Congreve, 
Gibber and Steele — to write, he was the earliest to die, and 
how, therefore, the nature of his sins against decorum was 
somewhat different from theirs, Wycherley's or Dryden's. We 
are further reminded, and the case well made out, that Far- 
quhar, save for his first imitative work, was really less coarse, 
and, what is more important, less morally callous, than his 
school and assured that he was actually " progressing towards 
a sane and humane form of comedy when the pen fell from his 
hand." * To some this may seem an endeavour to distinguish 
between a dose of poison that has been quite sufficient to kill 
the man and one that he might have taken, powerful enough 
to kill at least two. But Mr. Archer is within the truth when 
he states that Farquhar, in his last three comedies, " gives a 
general preponderance to kindness over cruelty and good over 
evil, which reverses the order of things prevailing in his con- 
temporaries," and that Farquhar " may fairly share with Steele 
the credit of having set earnestly about the ventilation of Eng- 
lish comedy." Possibly, in this necessary opening of the win- 
dows and getting out of doors, the most salient change is that 
which takes us, in these comedies, out of the narrow confines 
of the social life of a coterie wherein the conventions of etiquette 
have been substituted for the laws of nature, into a somewhat 
wider sphere of action, one at least in which the world of 
fashion and frivolity is viewed from without. The Recruiting 
Officer carries the scene to Shrewsbury and substitutes a novel 
group of characters, country justices and country clowns, the 
prey of the humorous wiles and devious subterfuges of three 
recruiting captains, actual folk in a larger contemporary life 
than that of the fops and gallants of Covent Garden; while 
the scene of The Beaux' Stratagem is Lichfield, wherein a sim- 

3 See William Archer, Introduction to George Farquhar, " Mermaid 
Series," 1903. 


ilar use is made of the life of a country inn. This comedy is 
Farquhar's m.asterpiece and it adds to our wonder at its hu- 
mour, ease and brightness to know that it was written almost 
literally on the author's deathbed. The plot is alike fresh, 
natural and original and better constructed than any comedy of 
Congreve. There is a humanity about the two scapegraces, 
who give title to the play, and their conduct, judged entire, is 
not unworthy their gentle blood. The ladies of their seeking, 
Dorinda and Mrs. Sullen, are real women and the plight of the 
latter, married to a drunken brute, justifies the unconventional 
conclusion whereby a separation is mutually agreed to. It has 
been well remarked that this honest questioning of an institution, 
which the drama of the time universally accepted only to cast 
ridicule upon it, was in itself a sign of an awakening moral 
consciousness. We can heartily agree with Mr. Archer in his 
belief that in the death of Farquhar English drama suffered a 
veritable misfortune. For this dramatist alone of the authors 
of his time appears to have been possessed of the true vis comica 
that translates actual life into an effective stage picture. Only 
such a one as he could have held the stage against the more 
diffusive influences of the essay that shortly carried Steele away 
from the theatre and Fielding, a little later, into the novel. 

Of Colley Gibber's first comedy and its inspiration to Van- 
brugh we have heard, and likewise of the adaptation of Richard 
III. Gibber became an actor of note and is recorded as par- 
ticularly happy in eccentric parts, the fops of Etherege, Con- 
greve and Vanbrugh; and Justice Shallow, Jaques and even 
lago and Richard III were among his Shakespearean roles. 
Gibber began acting in 1690 and retired in 1733, appearing 
occasionally even after; and he became, too, the most important 
manager of his time, conducting the affairs of Drury Lane with 
a success both histrionic and financial which it had never known 
before. With the delightful material that Gibber has left us 
in his naive and fascinating Apology, it would be pleasant to 
digress here into the history of the stage as he knew it, but 
neither our space nor the plan of this book permits. Gibber 
was intimately associated with nearly every dramatist, actor and 
patron of the stage from the heyday of Otway and Dryden to 
the latter days of Steele; and, on the death of Eusden in 1730, 
Gibber was appointed poet laureate, an honour that his good 
sense rightly attributed entirely to his staunch Whig principles. 
The work of Gibber as a dramatist grew out of the exigencies 


of his career as an actor and manager. It included upwards of 
thirty plays, comedies of manners and intrigue, pastorals, a farce, 
a masque, tragedies, alterations and adaptations of Shakespeare, 
Fletcher, Dryden, Moliere, Corneille and even of his minor 
contemporaries. There were many failures among them, but 
likewise a number of successes such as She Would and She 
fVould Not, an excellent comedy of manners, and The Care- 
less Husband, a really brilliant comedy of intrigue. Neither 
originality, literary quality, elevation of sentiment nor anything 
in the least degree smacking of poetry can be claimed for Gibber. 
But he could construct a play and people it with acceptable and 
entertaining personages. His work for the stage discloses a 
certain amelioration in decency and morals, as the years go by, 
in which he reflected the progress of his age ; to speak of " the 
moralised comedies of Gibber " seems an overstatement. His 
Apology introduces us to a man of singularly good sense and 
modesty who appears to have rated his associates fairly and to 
have laboured under no false misappraisement of himself. It 
was the irony of fate that thrust Golley Gibber into the laureate- 
ship thereby making him the butt of the ridicule of stronger men 
than himself; but assuredly the wit of Pope has seldom been 
so perversely misled by his spleen as when he makes this shrewd 
and capable business man, this adaptable dramatist and clever 
actor the hero of The Dunciad. 

Only one other dramatist who carried over the manner of 
the previous age need here concern us; and that is Mrs. Susanna 
Centlivre whose earliest play corresponds in point of date with 
the year of the death of Dryden. Before her marriage to Gent- 
livre, chief cook in the royal household of Queen Anne and 
King George I, she signed herself variously Freeman and Garoll 
Mrs. Gentlivre was of humble origin and began life in a com- 
pany of strolling players in the provinces but later established 
a permanent position in London. Her eighteen plays were 
written between 1700 and 1721, two years preceding her death, 
and there is scarcely one of them that is not possessed of merit 
for the stage. Her comedies, which form the bulk of her work, 
are alike lively and ingenious. Her greatest success was the 
creation of a new comedy figure in Marplot in The Busy-Body, 
1709. Don Felix in The Wonder or a Woman Keeps a 
Secret, 1 7 14, is hardly less amusing and original, however dif- 
ferent in kind. Mrs. Gentlivre is bright rather than witty, 
fluent and easy in dialogue and absolutely of the school of Gon- 


greve and Vanbrugh whom she equals in the ingenuity and in 
the want of the slightest sympathy with the moral ideals which 
were beginning to make their way towards realisation during 
the period of her writings. Several of her comedies, however, 
long held the stage to be revived by Garrick and even later. 

Into the interesting details of the life of Sir Richard Steele, it 
is impossible here to enter. Playwriting to him was not much 
more than an episode of his youth, though one of importance to 
the history of the drama alike from the consciousness of his art 
and from his recognition of what he conceived to be the moral 
obligations of the stage. Like Farquhar, Steele was of Irish 
birth, born in Dublin in 1672 and some six years the former's 
senior; like Farquhar, too, Steele began life as a soldier and 
saw as little service. But Steele was of better station in life 
and a kind uncle, who was secretary to the Duke of Ormond, 
was able to give his nephew the advantages of an education first 
at the Charterhouse, where began his friendship with Addison, 
and later at Oxford. The associations of Steele's youth stood 
him in good stead later, for his frank and engaging personality 
made him many friends. A certain dualism — rather than call 
it inconsistency — in the temperament of Steele disclosed itself 
early. His life as a young officer and rising wit, only too prone 
to conviviality, " exposed " him, as he expressed it, " to much 
irregularity," and among other escapades, he fought his man 
like any other gallant of his time, only to be afflicted — very 
unlike that personage — with serious after-thoughts on "the 
barbarous custom of duelling." The Christian Hero, 1701, 
honestly avowed with his name on the title page, was a strange 
book for a scapegrace young captain to write ; and, losing caste 
among his fellow officers of the regiment because of it, with 
characteristic volatility, Steele wrote his first comedy. The 
Funeral, to make weight against this prejudice. But The 
Funeral or Grief a la Mode is no swing back into comedy after 
the manner of Congreve and Vanbrugh. Steele had already 
declared himself " so far as I durst for witty men, ... a 
great admirer " of Jeremy Collier and acknowledged with can- 
dour the need of a reform of the stage. It was certainly a de- 
parture from custom for the author to " hope " in his preface 
that his subject might prove " acceptable to all lovers of man- 
kind," and it was almost equally without immediate precedent 
that he should have invented his plot entire. On its perform- 
ance, at Drury Lane late in 1701, The Funeral was received 


with " more than expected success," its timely satire on the folly 
of current fashionable vanities in grief, its several natural and 
amiable personages and its sprightly dialogue carrying off the 
utter improbability of the plot and such enormities as a young 
man, estranged from his father, visiting the home in which his 
father's dead body lies, to carry on the lively courtship of one 
of his wards. The Lying Lover, Steele's next comedy acted 
in 1703, owes considerable to Le Meteur of Corneille, but the 
serious twist to the plot in the last act, by which the careless 
Oxford lad, come up to town to play the gallant, is turned from 
his follies while in prison, supposedly for the killing of a man 
in duel, reads much like a page from Steele's own life. This 
comedy was written with the avowed purpose of banishing " out 
of conversation all entertainment which does not proceed from 
simplicity of mind, good nature, friendship and honour." The 
author acknowledges in it "an honest ambition to attempt a 
comedy which might be no improper entertainment in a Chris- 
tian commonwealth." Four acts of The Lying Lover are ex- 
cellent; the hero, Bookwit, with his imaginative lies, has a gay 
charm which accounts for the havoc that he temporarily works 
in the hearts of the ladies whose position of ironical friendship 
and concealed rivalry is well sustained. But the fifth act falls 
into " a moral homily," and the attempted picture of young 
Bookwit's despair in Newgate is as much above Steele's power 
as a dramatist as the sentimental ending is perilously near to 
priggishness. The Lying Lover ran but six nights. The Ten- 
der Husband acted in 1 705 is a much better play, though it had 
hardly a better fate. In point of fact its comparative failure 
may be attributed, not this time, to a sermonizing fifth act, but 
to the union of two plots, the one (derived from MoUere) as 
excellent in its farcical capabilities as the other (which was 
original) is unwholesome and unnatural. 

With The Tender Husband, Steele ceased, for many years, 
to write for the stage, although his association with the theatre 
continued close as critic, patron of the players and sharer in the 
business, if not in the actual management of Drury Lane. Into 
the vicissitudes of these theatrical matters we cannot venture 
here nor can we trace, even in outline, the active life of Steele 
as a politician, essayist and, party pamphleteer. Steele was al- 
ways a careless financier; and his extravagance, generosity and 
sanguine miscalculations as to his business undertakings and the 
returns of his various offices kept him in continual trouble, not- 


withstanding that his income, at times, was large. There are 
several indications of an intention on his part to return to 
writing for the stage, but what with his preoccupation with 
The Tatler and The Spectator and the several less famous 
"papers" that followed year after year, it was not until 1722 
that his last comedy, The Conscious Lovers, was acted. This 
time, with help of an excellent cast, in which Booth, Wilks and 
Mrs. Oldfield were foremost and Cibber directing and ad- 
vising, the author achieved an unquestioned success and his 
comedy held the stage for a century. The Conscious Lovers 
is founded on the Andria of Terence, but by no means slavishly, 
for the scene and personages are thoroughly English. In his 
preface Steele declares once more his purpose, " an innocent 
performance," and that " the whole was writ for the sake of 
the scene of the fourth act, wherein Mr. Bevil evades a quarrel 
with his friend; and I hope," the author adds, "it may have 
some effect upon the Goths and Vandals that frequent the 
theatres, or a more polite audience supply their absence." 

The comedies of Steele raise several questions. There is 
first the ever recurring difficulty regarding the relations of art 
to morals; then there is the doubt, raised in his own time, if 
material such as that constituting The Conscious Lovers, for 
example, falls properly within the limitations of comedy; and 
the query to what degree may a sentimental interest be reason- 
ably substituted for that steady and concentrated picture of life 
that we habitually expect of the drama. That the drama of 
Steele's generation demanded moral stimulus need not be re- 
peated and that he administered the dose is not to be denied. 
Possibly it was unavoidable, in view of the accepted conventions 
of the stage, to escape either the dose or the label. Steele 
labelled his medicine and frightened the patient ; and the quali- 
fied success of his three earlier comedies is to be attributed as 
much to a certain shyness on the part of the public as to his 
purpose as to the departure of these comedies from the kind of 
thing that his audience was accustomed to expect. There are 
few things so difficult to accomplish as the surprise of a the- 
atrical audience, and success is as likely as not to be resented. 
The novelty of Steele's plays, even more than their conscious 
moral tone and sentimentality, accounts for their qualified suc- 
cess. About the limitations of any form of art, we have ceased 
to argue much in these later days and we are nearly ready to 
acknowledge that such argument is scarcely more profitable than 


talk as to the correct size and colour of orchids. Even the 
matter of the intrusion — if it be such — of sentiment into 
places which we think otherwise better occupied, may be ac- 
knowledged to be largely a question of where to draw the line. 
Eighteenth century sentiment seems to us at times mawkish; 
will anything much better be said some day of our own? As 
to Steele, with a fine discernment and power of drawing char- 
acter and ability to write lively, natural and diverting dialogue, 
with a charming command of humour and pathos at need, he 
fails as a writer of comedies because of diffuseness, because of 
an inability to concentrate and to construct with the precision 
that several playwrights, otherwise his inferiors, possessed. Un- 
consciously or not, Steele sought expression in the essay and 
left the inimitable figures of Sir Roger de Coverley, Will Honey- 
comb and Captain Sentry to a larger audience than Sabel, Book- 
wit or Bevil could ever reach. It is interesting to know that 
Goldsmith borrowed his Tony Lumpkin from Steele's Hum- 
phrey Gubbin, and that Sheridan had his Lydia Languish from 
T Biddy Tipkin ; that Steele had his part in the paternity of Field- 

ing's old fashioned Squire Western as in his " perfect man " 
^ Squire Alworthy. Even Sir Charles Grandison is only Richard- 

It son's elaborate glorification of Steele's virtuous, priggish, im- 

possible paragon, young Bevil. In a word, Steele was the 
earliest literary man to express the new sentimental ideal of 
manhood which, whatever its shortcomings, set a contrast be- 
tween the weakness and brutality of the flesh and decent, 
honest clean living, and recognised a respectable, if sornewhat 
conventional, standard of moral conduct, governed by kindness 
and humanity, while seeing the world none the less truly as it 
was. This was a great step in advance of the conventional im- 
morality of the previous age, with its cynical denial of any 
standard. Unhappily, however, this was precisely the step 
which the drama could not stand; for the substitution of the 
sentimental ideal carried with it the reference of conduct, char- 
acter and situation to the standard of morals in place of the 
standard of artistic truth and fitness. We may acknowledge 
The Lying Lover, then, as the first unmistakable example of 
the sentimental comedy and the as yet healthy parent of a long 
and increasing sickly progeny. 

To appreciate to the full the nature and extent of the decline 
in the English drama, not from the pinnacles of Shakespeare, 


but from the lesser heights of Heywood, Massinger and Dryden, 
we need to consider, not the inferior products of this later age 
or those, which failing to fall in with the taste of the time 
(like Steele's) enjoyed only a qualified acceptance, but the 
dramas that were acclaimed and approved, plays which, like the 
tragedies of Southerne and Rowe, were hailed with enthusiasm 
and maintained their place on the stage for generations. In 
the case of Rowe it happens that such a comparison is easy as 
three of his most popular works, Tamerlane, The Fair Peni- 
tent and Jane Shore, are on themes already treated by 
Elizabethan dramatists and two at least are independent writ- 
ings over or translations, so to speak, into the terms of Augustan 
ideals of the drama. Nicholas Rowe was two years Steele's 
and Addison's junior and, though educated for the law, de- 
veloped early an unusually deep interest in the drama as dis- 
tinguished from the stage. An indefatigable reader and ap- 
preciator of old poetry, Rowe is now best remembered as the 
earliest editor of Shakespeare, the first to attempt to compile 
a biography of that great poet from the fading traditions and 
perishing memorials accessible at the time. But Rowe, with 
all his appreciation of the past, was absolutely a man of his 
own age. He was born two generations too soon to feel the 
slightest stirring in him of the returning spring of the romantic 
revival and even Shakespeare editorship was to darken to the 
days of Pope before the dawn. Rowe is the author of eight 
dramas, one of them a comedy, altogether trivial. The rest, 
which are more or less tragic, range from The Ambitious Step- 
mother in 1700 to Jane Shore, fifteen years later; and they en- 
joyed, for their clearly defined and well conducted, if artificial, 
plots, their easy florid and declamatory blank verse and their 
consistent expression of accepted conventional emotion, alto- 
gether the greatest popularity of their time. In Tamerlane, 
acted in 1702, Rowe has reduced the titanic and barbarous 
conqueror of Asia to an enlightened modern potentate, intended 
to figure forth and compliment his majesty, William III, draw- 
ing in contrast the weak and passionate Bajazet, to typify cor- 
respondingly William's enemy, Louis XIV. These political 
similitudes, so fatal to literary longevity, assured to the piece a 
contemporary success and brought fame to the author. It is 
but fair to say that Rowe owes nothing to Marlowe, although 
the two dramas might be instructively contrasted by one who 


would know to the full the extravagance of authentic poetry 
o'erleaping itself and the atrophy of even the similitude of that 
divine art. 

In the following year, Rowe achieved a lasting success in 
The Fair Penitent, which, like its even more successful suc- 
cessor, Jane Shore, 1 7 14, held the stage in almost unchallenged 
acceptance for more than three generations. As we read these 
old plays, acknowledging their merits in clarity, directness, 
sentimental, perhaps even to their auditors emotional, interest, 
we cannot but wonder how their poverty of thought, their 
obvious rhetoric, want of poetry and characterisation could have 
satisfied those who had seen Shakespeare, acted by Betterton, 
Booth and Garrick. A comparison of The Fair Penitent, with 
its source, Massinger's splendid, vivid Fatal Dowry — a com- 
parison by the way made as long ago as the time of Richard 
Cumberland — discloses on the part of Rowe much the same 
attitude of mind and the same narrow intent to unify and sim- 
plify at any cost that we have already found characteristic of 
Gibber's alterations of Richard III; and even a greater callous- 
ness to the touches of life, those flashes of poetry and realisa- 
tions of character that give reality to the old play. Massinger 
had given to Charlois, the wronged husband, a personality and 
a dignity in his manly grief that the body of his noble father 
must lie unburied for want of money to satisfy his creditors. 
He had given to him, in pleading his cause, a pathetic eloquence 
that moves the reader as it moved the judges in the play and, 
thus prepared, we proceed to the story of his wrongs. All this 
Rowe reduces to a cold recital, leaving us without a grain of 
sympathy for his Altamont, the corresponding figure. Again, 
Massinger had given to his heroine Beaumelle, a levity of na- 
ture that accounts for her infidelity and, in the end, an awaken- 
ing that causes her, in her contrition, to realise the nobility of 
the husband whom she had abused. Rowe's corresponding 
figure, Calista, is the victim of her own animal passion, marries 
her husband because she must and is sorrowful and pathetic 
that her wickedness has been discovered and that convention 
demands her suicide. The play is miscalled, for not for a^ min- 
ute is Calista truly penitent. Rowe destroyed the humanity of 
every figure that he touched, conventionalising the friend, 
Romont-Horatio and losing all the noble distraction of the 
father. In a word the living drama becomes under the hand 
of its renovator, a succession of sentimental scenes in which the 


personages concerned are merely the mouthpieces of an emotion, 
oratorically expressed. 

Nor can anything better be said for Rowe's most celebrated 
play, Jane Shore, the story of the fall from greatness of a king's 
mistress where many charities, amiability of temper and gener- 
osity of heart in a measure palliate, especially to the sentimental 
mind, her wrong doings. The subject had already been treated 
diffusely, but with genuine command of the dramatic interest 
and pathos of the situation, by Heywood in his Edward IV. 
The title of Jane Shore discloses the words: "written in imita- 
tion of Shakespeare's style," an amazing statement from an 
editor of Shakespeare and in view of its unutterable unlikeness. 
Indeed nothing could more plainly declare the obsession of the 
age of Pope and Voltaire on this topic than such a declaration. 
Jane Shore, like The Fair Penitent reduces the dramatic per- 
sonages to a minimum, rejects absolutely the element of comic 
relief and is as regular as it is simple in construction; but 
here too, the personages like the dialogue, tend to abstraction. 
Rowe has been praised for his women ; he knows only one, the 
plaintive suflferer, bewailing her woman's weakness, defending 
herself against man's lustful advances, moaning, sorrowing, de- 
claiming, dying. And even this figure he had in a measure 
from Southerne and Otway before him, as he had from these 
predecessors, his interest in domestic subjects. Whether for 
these, his more famous plays, already mentioned, for Ulysses, 
The Royal Convert or Lady Jane Grey, we must recognise 
in Rowe this paternity and succession. A candid reading of the 
three authors in juxtaposition makes clear the decline from 
Otway to Southerne and the greater drop in poetry and mastery 
over genuine emotion from Southerne to Rowe. 

The touch of Joseph Addison with the stage was even less 
than that of Steele, although his three efforts cover a more 
varied ranged. His Rosamond, 1707, to which Clayton wrote 
rather inferior music, was an effort in the direction of the es- 
tablishment of English opera. The libretto is both common- 
place and inadequate. The Drummer, 1 7 16, is a comedy 
written with William Harrison. Its deserved failure caused 
Addison not to own his part in its authorship. The celebrated 
tragedy of Cato involves one of the most interesting matters 
in connection with the history of English drama, however its 
extraordinary contemporary success must be referred to a happy 
concatenation of political affairs and the great reputation of 


Addison in contemporary letters and society. The last num- 
ber of The Spectator had appeared in December 1712 and Addi- 
son was seeking for new fields of literary effort, when his friends 
prevailed upon him to complete a tragedy on the subject of Cato 
at Utica, the first four acts of which he had written nearly ten 
years before. There is no reason to doubt that Addison's seri- 
ous misgivings as to the production of his tragedy were sincere. 
It had not been originally written to be acted and Addison was 
too judicious a critic not to recognise its shortcomings. But the 
subject at the moment was peculiarly fitting; the Tories had 
just come back to power with the conclusion of the Treaty of 
Utrecht, the Whigs felt that the treaty was the loss of all that 
the victories of Marlborough had gained for England. ^ Cato 
was the last of the Romans, as conservative as the veriest of 
Tories; but he was also the defeated, the heroically unsuccess- 
ful upholder of the greatness of Rome ; and the Whigs were 
quite as certainly defeated and, in their own opinion, the up- 
holders of the glory of England. In consequence, on the stag- 
ing of Cato, in 1713, the house was packed by the adherents 
of both parties, each as determined as the other to read the 
drama into an allegory favourable to its own deservings, and 
Addison enjoyed a dramatic success in London, and later at 
Oxford, above that of any dramatist of his time. Like every- 
thing of Addison's, Cato is full of noble sentiments, beautifully 
written and with a complete realisation of that regularity that 
the age united so to praise. With this, all commendation ends. 
The plot is barren, ill conducted and full of absurdities, the 
characters frigid, lifeless and mere mouthpieces for fine declania- 
tions. Considering the humanity of The Spectator, and with 
every allowance for Steele's part in it and influence on his 
friend, the coldness of Addison's tragedy is surprising and the 
dignity of Cato added to the dignity and selfconsciousness of 
Addison produced a result which even the author's own compla- 
cent age found it difficult wholly to accept. Cato was vastly 
admired and theoretically approved, but it was also severely 
criticised, most incisively and wittily by Dennis, for the ir- 
relevancy of its love scenes and for its slavish adherence to the 
unities ; and after a few revivals, it ceased to hold the stage. 

Cato has been called " the grave of English tragedy " ; per- 
haps it is better denominated that tragedy's sculptured tomb, not 
even inhabited by that much abused victim of a thousand crimes. 
And it was what Voltaire delightedly designated its reasonable- 


ness that killed English tragedy in Cato. It is possible, if one 
so wills it, to view the entire history of English drama (or all 
literature and art for that matter) as one continued struggle 
between the sanction of precedent and the spirit of freedom. In 
wide considerations such as these many cant words have been 
invented and it is difficult to avoid them and their misleading 
connotations. It is possibly not too much an exaggeration to 
say that the literal reading of a disciple's report of the opinions 
and theories of a certain Greek philosopher, with little reference 
to his larger system, led two modern literatures astray in their 
conception and practice of tragedy and shackled the develop- 
ment and freedom of at least two others. Cato demonstrated 
to the world how " a classical drama " might be written ; and 
it demonstrated, likewise, what an undesirable thing it was to 
do. None the less, in the years that followed Addison and 
Rowe, English tragedy became more and more a conventional 
following of what had gone before; and the strongest influence 
upon it, because the nearest, was that of France. In the hands 
of genius and with vastly contrasted antecedents, the classical 
ideal had reached there the grace, the dignity, the purity of dic- 
tion and elevation of thought that distinguishes the works of 
Racine and Corneille. The story of classical drama in Eng- 
land is very different; for such way as it made at times in the 
early Senecans, in Jonson and his followers, was always by 
main force against the grain of English genius. In England 
those bugaboos, the unities, had frightened many a play out of 
its senses and into absurdity, however rational the underlying 
principles which the age devoutly believed made for the realisa- 
tion of all the dramatic virtues. Again and again among the 
commendations bestowed by the critics on Shakespeare, we read 
how his " irregularities " were thrown into the balance against 
him. From Jonson and Dryden to Pope and Dr. Johnson, 
though the degree of accusation may vary, its major count is 
always the same. Now in the very triumph of the classical 
ideal, as the eighteenth century conceived it in England, lay 
one of the elements of its undoing, and that was this same sen- 
timentality that insisted, for example, on love-making in the 
senate chamber at Utica at the very extremity of Cato's resist- 
ance to Rome. The age that preferred Otway's Monimia and 
Rowe's Calista, as tragic heroines, to Lady Macbeth, let us 
say, or even to Dryden's Cleopatra, was scarcely stern enough 
to uphold the rigours of Attic tragedy elsewhere than in aca- 



demic discussion; and hence the general breakdown in English 
tragedy of that theoretical aloofness and decorum on which 
French classical tragedy prided itself so highly. 

In the forgotten plays of Ambrose Philips, John Hughes, 
Charles Johnson, Elijah Fenton and their lesser kind, in those of 
Edward Young, familiar author of Night Thoughts, and James 
Thomson, ever memorable for The Seasons, English tragedy 
dragged its weary length, rattling its French fetters and be- 
speaking tears as well as admiration for a form more or less 
avowedly classic. None of the three dramas of Young, from 
Busiris in 1 7 19 to The Brothers in 1753, was successful, save 
in attracting the satirical ridicule of Fielding's burlesque Tom 
Thumb; and the five "tremendous tragedies" of Thomson 
(most of them acted between 1730 and 1752), despite the 
friendship and the acting of Quin and Garrick, achieved only a 
temporary success. Thomson's Sophonisba is at best a poor 
following of Otway, his Edward and Eleanora, based on an 
apocryphal anecdote concerning King Edward I, achieved the 
extraordinary distinction of being praised by John Wesley; in 
his Coriolanus, Thomson disdained to borrow from Shake- 
speare, but wrote the drama over anew and at much greater 
length', making Volumnia, the wife of Coriolanus, and now no 
longer' silent, like Virgilia, and, expunging both the person and 
the humour of excellent Menenius Agrippa from a drama on so 
serious a subject as the history of Rome. No contrast could 
better make clear the nature of the difference between the ideals 
of the stage in Shakespeare's time and those of Thomson's than 
a comparison of the scene, in the Coriolanus of each, in which 
that conqueror is won to spare his native city by the intercession 
of his wife and mother; and few could make clearer the 
declamation, mannerism and conventionality of situation and 
personage into which the drama of the whole age had fallen. 
In these dramatic productions of distinguished poets we recog- 
nise the commencement of that break between the play as a pro- 
duction for the stage and the dramatic form as an attractive 
mould for the expression of poetic thought and literary ideals. 
This created an ever widening breach between dramatic litera- 
ture and the stage and contributed to the further atrophy of 
the drama; so that through the time of Gibber, throughout that 
of Garrick and beyond, the period becomes more and more the 
age of the actor as distinguished from that of the dramatist. 
But there was much to intervene before we reach this later 


period. Of the vogue of " opera," after the manner of the 
French, in Dryden's time, and the plays, furnished with in- 
cidental music, which went by that name we have already 
heard. In 17 10, the famous German composer, George Fred- 
erick Handel came over to England, after having made a repu- 
tation for himself as an impresario of Italian opera both in Italy 
and in his native country. Between his Rinaldo, ijii, for 
which Aaron Hill, later a voluminous playwright, wrote the 
libretto, and Deidamia, thirty years later, he composed and 
staged more than forty Italian operas which have been gener- 
ically described as consisting each of " some twenty or thirty 
detached arias set in the action of a classical drama to which 
nobody paid the slightest attention." Nor was Handel alone 
in exploiting this popular rival of the drama, as his well known 
rivalry with Buononcici alone is sufficient to show. Another 
feature of the time was the rise, in the second decade of the cen- 
tury, of pantomime of which the inspiring spirit was John Rich. 
Rich opened, in 17 14, a new and gorgeous theatre in Lincoln's 
Inn Fields, having inherited the property from his father, Chris- 
topher Rich, well known as a manager before him. It is re- 
ported that, having a talent for acting but an insufficient voice, 
Rich developed the pantomime in consequence. It is more likely 
that he found the source for his innovation in current Italian 
practices. At any rate he soon developed in his pantomimes, a 
species of dramatic entertainment " consisting of dancing, ges- 
ture and action intermingled with trick and show," which be- 
came a serious rival to Italian opera and the regular drama. 
Rich played the part of Harlequin himself and devised clever 
variations, not only on the theme set by that ubiquitous person- 
age, but on current matters such as the South Sea Bubble, on 
Faustus and other subjects; and he followed up these successes 
with those of other kinds. It was at this point in his prosperity 
that John Gay, after suffering a refusal at Drury Lane, offered 
Rich his Beggar's Opera. Gay, who had already gained a 
deserved reputation for his Fables and Shepherd's Week, had 
been taken up by Pope and backed by that satirical marksman 
from ambush in one or two previous dramatic ventures. After 
one or two false starts, Gay had staged in 17 15, a dramatic 
skit, entitled What d'ye call It, in which Pope helped to aim 
the arrows of their combined wit at the contemporary taste for 
sentimental tragedy, Venice Preserved in particular. Appar- 
ently nobody appreciated exactly its significance ; and, two years 


later, a scandalous comedy by the same collaborators failed so 
signally that Pope was glad to disavow any part in it. Nor did 
Gay fare any better in 1724 with a tragedy. 

With The Beggars Opera, however, Gay's reputation and 
fortune was made. It ran, according to Pope, sixty-three nights, 
an unprecedented run in those days, and for a time literally 
drove Italian opera, against which its burlesque was levelled, 
off the stage. The Beggars Opera belongs to a species known 
as ballad-opera and may claim a descent, more or^less direct, from 
the English masque through the " heroic opera," as productions 
like Drj'den's Tempest and Davenant's Macbeth have been 
somewhat loosely called. Gay's work is actually a prose farce 
in three acts, interspersed with some seventy little songs — ly- 
rics " (alas for the abuse of words!), we should now call them 
in the cant of the musical drama. The music was taken from 
popular airs of the day and arranged so as little to impede the 
action such as it is. The plot, so far as there is any, is well 
described in the term " a Newgate pastoral." Indeed the very 
bareness of the " fable "— the situation of Captain Macheath, 
the handsome dashing highwayman, betrayed to a merited hang- 
ing by the conspiracy of a turnkey and a receiver of stolen goods, 
but beloved by the daughter of each — is a mere take-off, in its 
lowness of subject, of the high dramatic altitudes of current 
opera and tragedy. And the whimsical conclusion that restores 
the captain, against all logic, to his two sorrowing wives is a 
further thrust at current operatic absurdity. The Beggars 
Opera is intrinsically a trifle, and more distinguished by its 
inconsequence and good humour than by its wit or any serious 
effort at satire ; but it accomplished with a laugh what twenty 
years of rival endeavour could not do, the discouragement of 
the bombast and absurdity of many of its serious performances. 
Gay followed up his success immediately by a second part, called 
Polly, which, although not allowed to be acted for personal 
reasons, brought him in, on publication, a handsome sum^ to 
add to the fortune that The Beggars Opera had made him. 
Later, we find Gay supplying an English libretto for Handel. 
His other dramatic ventures are negligible. 

Let us return to the sentimental drama to which the ad- 
vancing century brought a new development in the form of 
a revival of the once popular Elizabethan bourgeois tragedy. 
In June 1731, The London Merchant or the History of George 
Barnwell was acted at Drury Lane, the author, George Lillo. 


This tragedy was a departure in several particulars from the 
vogue of the time. It was founded avowedly on fact, the 
homely fact of every day life; and while the author did not go 
to the length of representing the life of his own time, the veil 
of the story of an Elizabethan apprentice on his road to ruin 
was transparent enough for all to descry the contemporaneous 
moral application. The form, too, was an innovation, for 
Barnwell is written in the homeliest and baldest prose, how- 
ever it falls at times into a certain lilt of rhythm in passages of 
emotional excitement, like the well known cases in Dickens. 
Prose for ^tragedy, if not quite unknown before, was at least — 
like Lillo's descent into the affairs of tradesmen — a daring 
flaunt in the regal countenance of tragic decorum. Although 
acted in vacation, Barnwell scored an immediate success, run- 
nmg for twenty consecutive nights to crowded houses and gain- 
mg, in Its repeated revivals, altogether the greatest success of 
any piece of its age. More, this bald and homespun dramatic 
version of an old ballad — for it is no more — void of the 
least trace of poetry and without a single literary grace to recom- 
mend it, gained a reputation and exerted an influence on litera- 
ture, especially abroad, which is simply amazing. The direc- 
tion that Lillo gave to the drama involved a deeper respect for 
religion and morals and a more rigorous regard as to conduct, 
especially in the relations of the sexes. This is equally the bia^ 
of Richardson's novels and of the " moralised " pictorial satire 
of Hogarth: and both, be it remembered, came after. More- 
over the success of Lillo's play, on the stage, made it the pattern 
not only of imitation in England, but practically founded a 
school of domestic tragedy in France and in Germany as well. 
This latter, an interesting subject in itself, cannot be pursued 
m this place. Suffice it to recall, in the one country, Diderot, 
w^hose transformation of the comedie larmoyante into his own 
trngedie domest'ique et bourgeoise was effected by the direct 
influence of a French translation of Barnwell upon him, and 
Lessing, in the other, who translated Diderot in the first in- 
stance and imitated Lillo in his tragedy, Miss Sara Sampson* 
lo return to Barnwell, as a work of dramatic art, no one 
could rate it intrinsically highly; however, Lillo is to be com- 
mended for his directness, his freedom from redundancy, his 
steady movement forward, to the gallows that takes his un- 
*0n this whole subject see the excellent edition of Barnwell and 
The Fatal Curiosity by A. W. Ward, 1906. 


happy and repentant hero to his doom in the end. It is one 
thing to consider this simple old tragedy from our modern point 
of view and label it " execrable stuff"; it is another to try to 
understand its popularity and influence. Lillo, of whom little 
personally is known, was, it appears, of Flemish extraction and 
carried on the trade of jeweller in London. He was, on his 
own confession, a dissenter, and exhibits in his work the close 
knowledge of the bible, the strong religious convictions and the 
acute moral sense that was characteristic of the Protestant 
nonconformists of his time. His success with Barnwell, which 
was great pecuniarily, led him to the writing of other tragedies 
of which The Fatal Curiosity is alike the best known and the 
most powerful. Here, once more we have a murder play and 
one circumstantially told as an actual occurrence in the old 
pamphlet form from which the story was derived. Here, too, 
Lillo left his story in the Jacobean period in which his source 
had placed it ; but he sought to dignify the theme by writing in 
verse and heightening his language, in neither of which can he 
be said to be successful. The Fatal Curiosity tells of the return 
of a son in disguise after long absence, and of his murder by 
his own parents whom continued want and misery had driven 
to the verge of madness. It is a terrible little play, compress- 
ing, as it does, the subject into three short acts; and, we may 
agree, that the manner in which this horrible deed is made to 
appear the inevitable consequence of fate rather than the re- 
sult of character, declares its psychology to be transnormal. In 
a word, Lillo's Fatal Curiosity is the logical application of sen- 
timentality to the murder play. It may be added that this 
tragedy, too, has an interesting foreign history, especially in its 
influence on minor German romantic drama. In two other 
tragedies. The Christian Hero and Elmerick, both readable 
and interesting, Lillo holds up his ideal of the just prince and 
the righteous man. The Christian hero is the famous Albanian 
prince, George Castriota; Elmerick is a supposedly historical 
leaf out of the annals of Hungary. Save for the prevalence of 
strong moral ideas in them and a somewhat abortive attempt to 
give to their halting blank verse a rather greater elevation of 
language than the prose of Barnwell, they are not distinctive. 
Lastly, Lillo left behind him an unacted rewriting of ^^r^ew 
of Feversham which may show the source of his inspiration for 
Barnwell or be no more than a subsequent discovery of this ear- 
lier work of kindred spirit. 


Notwithstanding the success of Barnwell and such immediate 
followings of its domestic scenes as Charles Johnson's Calia, the 
pathetic story of a wronged woman and The Gamester of Ed- 
ward Moore, a prosaic but genuinely moving play, the influence 
of this attempted return to subjects of every day life was less 
efficient on the stage than in the novel that began now to draw 
off to its wider field the attention of those who might other- 
wise have written plays. As early as the time of Mrs. Behn 
and Mrs. Manly, we find this division of interest between the 
novel and the stage. Congreve, it is true, began in fiction and 
turned back into comedy. On the other hand, Steele and 
Addison (if we count the elements of the novel in their essays), 
Fielding most notably, Smollett, Brooke, Goldsmith and even 
Dr. Johnson, wrote in both kinds. Fielding discovering his 
forte in the one, Goldsmith in the other. The drama at large 
still continued its compromising allegiance to the theory of 
France and to home-made sentimentality; and in tragedy, the 
influence of Voltaire, whose criticism of the English stage was 
much read, if not wholly appreciated in England, became more 
and more apparent. Voltaire, after his sojourn in England, 
found himself divided between an admiration, which he could 
not withhold, for the freedom of English tragedy, especially 
Shakespeare, and that restraining sense of the licet and decet 
which is alike the strength and the weakness of the classical 
ideal. His Mort de Cesar was avowedly an imitation of 
Shakespeare so far as French taste would permit such an imita- 
tion; his other tragedies of this period exhibit a similar com- 
promise between a long tradition and a great example. Dis- 
cussion, translation and imitation of the great French author in 
England was almost immediate. There was Duncombe's Bru- 
tus as early as 1732, Miller's Mahomet, and Murphy's Orphan 
of China, much later. In 1736, Aaron Hill's Zara gained a 
success scarcely warranted by its slender merits, to be followed 
by other adaptations, Alzira, Merope, and The Roman Re- 
venge in which Hill endeavoured to improve as much upon 
Voltaire's conception of the tragedy of Caesar as Voltaire es- 
teemed himself to have improved upon Shakespeare. But even 
if habitually mutilated, Shakespeare was better known in Eng- 
land than in France; and Voltaire's English imitators and ad- 
mirers fell out at last with his exasperating criticism and his 
disingenuousness if not with his example. " Can our contempt 
and resentment," says Foote, in 1747, "be too strongly ex- 


pressed against that insolent French panegyrist who first denies 
Shakespeare almost every dramatic' excellence, and then, in his 
next play, pilfers from him almost every capital scene?" But 
by no means were all the tragedies, that cluster about the middle 
of the century, mere imitations of contemporary French plays. 
Only a few months before the performance in 1749, of Hill's 
Merope, one of thie last of his translations of Voltaire, Garrick 
had placed Dr. Johnson's portentous tragedy, Mahomet and 
Irene, on the stage and by sheer force of his personal influence 
and good will to an old friend compelled it to run nine nights 
that the needy scholar might put the products of three author's 
nights in his pocket. Irene, as it was called on publication, is 
as heavy and essentially undramatic as its famous author him- 
self. There is something deliciously ludicrous in the Ottoman 
conqueror of Constantinople grandiloquently praising the Brit- 
ish constitution in the year 1453, and courting his fair Greek 
captive in the ponderous eloquence that rolled its beneficent 
thunder at the Turk's Head and the Mitre. 

Dr. Johnson's tragedy, a model of correctness and weighted 
with perfections, was never acted again. Very much in con- 
trast was the fate of John Home's Douglas, a prime favourite 
on its first appearance in Edinburgh in 1756, at Covent Garden 
in the next year and, on repeated revivals, thereafter up to the 
days of Kean and Mrs. Siddons. Home was a Scottish clergy- 
man and the scandal of one of his cloth having written 
a play caused his resignation from the pulpit. Douglas is 
based on one of the old ballads of his country and written, 
as it was, somewhat apart from the influences that conven- 
tionalize all literary efforts in the hands of lesser men 
who live at the centre of culture, is sustained by a genuine 
sincerity, simplicity and pathos that fully account for its 
popularity. The story, that of the restoration to his mother 
of a long lost son who is slain almost in the moment of then- 
recognition, comported well with the sorrows and distresses of 
which the stage was so fond ; but is conspicuous in substituting 
motherly affection for the mawkish love making that Intrudes 
so commonly into contemporary comedy and tragedy alike. Dr. 
Johnson, who could not but feel somewhat piqued at the success 
of Douglas, with its inartificial plotting and inadequacj^^ as to 
literary quality, consoled himself in declaring, " There is not, 
sir, a good line in Douglas" Irene is stuffed with good lines, 
and yet Irene is no play. 



It was well before this period of the controversy with Vol- 
taire that burlesque had begun to shower the arrows of its 
ridicule upon the unoriginality, the grandiloquence and des- 
perate prosaic level of English tragedy. Henry Fielding, the 
famous novelist, began his long literary career with the penning 
of a couple of comedies in the manner of Congreve, the first of 
which was eclipsed on its performance, in 1728, by the popular- 
ity of The Beggar's Opera. Thereafter Fielding wrote some 
twenty or more other pieces, comedies, short farces or bur- 
lesques; and in 1742, gave up the stage for the law and the writ- 
mg of fiction. Scarcely one of Fielding's dramatic ventures is 
wanting in interest, though all were written carelessly and 
under pressure of the moment. The two or three adaptations 
from Moliere succeeded best in their day and one of them, The 
Miser, long held the stage. The earlier comedies are as coarse 
as we might expect comedies written by the author of Tom 
Jones to be, however he made the characteristic plea that in 
so writing he intended " to make vice detestable." Fielding's 
real dramatic successes were his mock-heroic burlesques for 
which his vigorous satirical pen found ample scope. In The 
Author's Farce he attacked opera, the vacuity of the drama and 
the wretchedness of Grub Street hacks, of which fraternity he 
was perilously near being a member at the moment. Covent 
Garden is an onslaught on the sentimental drama, especially as 
represented in The Distressed Mother, a popular play of Philips ; 
and in Pasquin, as in The Historical Register, another farce. 
Fielding lampooned the Gibbers, father and son, against whom 
he disclosed a continual enmity. The best of these short pieces 
is Tom Thumb the Great, a burlesque of the whole romantic, 
sentimental and bombastic drama from Dryden, Lee and Otway 
to Dennis, whose criticism receives many a delightful thrust, 
and Thomson against whose Busiris the satirist appears to have 
had an especial grudge. It is Fielding's cue not only to turn the 
entire species to ridicule in his absurd and plotless extravaganza 
of the little hero, Tom Thumb, at the court of King Arthur, 
but to parody lines, passages and similitudes from the tragedies 
that are his quarry, in the manner of The Rehearsal, but far 
more extravagantly. While much of this banter must be lost 
to us, despite the author's diverting parallels and references, 
enough remains to declare how justified was the attack, and we 
learn with interest that Tom Thumb long held the stage, sur- 
passing alike its predecessors and the several followings in its 


kind that its wit and its success inspired. Fielding's earliest 
successors in burlesque, were Henry Carey, author of Chro- 
nanhotonthologos, and Samuel Foote, an actor, notorious for 
his powers of mimicry, who, after evading the law ingeniously 
for years, at length succeeded in obtaining a license for his little 
theatre in the Haymarket, where the lighter muse long main- 
tained herself, in comedy and farce, against the tears and dig- 
nities that ruled at the other houses. 

To recapitulate in even the briefest outline the intricate story 
of David Garrick's leadership of the English stage during a 
period of more than forty years, can form no part of the sub- 
ject of this book. He was unequalled as an actor, successful 
in steering for the most part a steady course in the troubled 
waters of theatrical management, and an able guide of the 
taste of the time, somewhat, though not so much as has been 
supposed, to the appreciation of a wholesomer dramatic diet. 
Garrick's Gallic temper combined wit, vivacity and versatility 
with prudence and, his enemies said, a certain niggardliness. 
It was perhaps less this last (for there are many stories to dis- 
prove it) than a certain want of moral courage that caused him 
to temporise and compromise so commonly in his dealings with 
the drama of his time. Garrick is often extolled as the restorer 
of Shakespeare to the stage. As a matter of fact there never 
was a time from Elizabeth's day to Garrick's own (to say noth- 
ing of what came after), when Shakespeare had not held the 
English stage, his roles the ambition of the greatest actors, his 
plays, when honestly and adequately given, the delight not only 
of the cultivated and judicious but of the masses who cared 
for the stage. In another sense, the restoration of Shakespeare 
has been claimed for Garrick and he rather boasted at times 
of his return to the original texts. But his famous Richard HI 
was Gibber's version; and he never dared to act King Lear 
save with Tate's unhappy happy ending ; while his " dramatic 
works" (collected after his death, it is fair to add), disclose 
in The Fairies, Catherine and Petruchio and Florizel and^ Per- 
dita, titles which are scarcely more varied from the original 
designations of plays of Shakespeare's than the texts themselves 
are altered. In the matter of the fitting of dramas for revival 
on a later stage under new conditions, it is easy to fall into a 
condition of unwarranted conservatism. Indubitably so plastic 
a thing as a drama should be adaptable to the immediate pur- 
pose which it serves. And in view of the incessant review, re- 


writing and alteration of Elizabethan plays in their own age 
we may feel sure that Shakespeare would have been himself the 
first to recognise this necessity. But there is cutting and re- 
arrangement that respects the spirit of the play, and there is 
meddling and rewriting that spoils whatever it touches. The 
fine taste of Garrick must have appreciated this difference, how- 
ever a somewhat pusillanimous practice failed to realise it. 
Certainly Garriqk was far from deserving the frank satire which 
his friend, Fielding, bestowed on his predecessor in Elizabethan 
adaptation when he made Cibber say: " No play though ever 
so good, would do without alteration " ; and then added : 
" Shakespeare is already good enough for people of taste, he 
must be altered to the palates of those who have none." Gar- 
rick's actual contribution to English dramatic literature, de- 
spite his three volumes of adaptations and collaborations, is sur- 
prisingly inadequate in view of his lasting and deserved reputa- 
tion on the boards. " He was perpetually producing various 
little things in a dramatic way," says his earliest biographer, 
" some of which are original." As a matter of fact, very few 
are original and his talents as a playv/right begin and end in a 
practical knowledge of the stage and an appreciation of the 
value of lively dialogue and ready action. 

There is a tradition that Oliver Goldsmith once consulted 
Richardson as to tragedy which he had written, that he read 
it aloud to another friend in Edinburgh, " hastily blotting every- 
thing to which his listener objected "; and then the tragedy dis- 
appears. It has been surmised that, as Voltaire was still in 
the ascendant and as Goldsmith was known to admire him, here 
was perhaps another contribution however much more able, to 
English Gallo-classical tragedy, begun, as we have seen, with 
Duncombe and Aaron Hill and concluded in the failures of 
Murphy's Orphan of China and Cradock's Zobeide. Gold- 
smith was forty years old in 1768 before his comedy, The Good 
Natured Man was acted ; the performance of She Stoops to 
Conquer preceded his death, in 1774, by only one year. For 
Goldsmith the period of preparation, rather of blundering in- 
certitude, was long, and his time of realisation disturbed by 
hack work and hurry. In the comedy of the sixties, some have 
found a reflex influence, back from France to England, of much 
the character of that which England had extended through 
Barnwell on France, some twenty years earlier. The comedies 
of Arthur Murphy, some of them borrowed directly from La 


Chaussee, as he had borrowed from Pamela and Clarissa cer- 
tainly appear to bear this out. But whether the author be 
Murphy, Colman, Mackhn or even Garrick himself (as in The 
Clandestine Marriage which he wrote with Colman), this 
comedy was ever moralised in its genteel commonplace and be- 
coming sentiment until all humour and merriment had been 
driven to such refuge, as we have seen, in farce and burlesque. 
As early as 1759, in his Enquiry into the Present State of Polite 
Learning, Goldsmith had defended the exaggerations of folly 
and the absurdities of the vulgar in comedy against those who 
" proscribed the comic or satirical muse from every walk but 
high life." He especially objected to the current word lozu 
as used thus to restrict the legitimate functions of comedy, as 
he later deplored the circumstance that humour seemed to be 
departing from the stage; wittily defining sentimental comedy 
as " a kind of mulish production with all the defects of its 
opposite parents, and marked with sterility," he argues that 
" if we are permitted to make comedy weep, we have an equal 
right to make tragedy laugh, and to set down in blank-verse 
the jests and repartees of all the attendants in a funeral pro- 
cession." ^ It was with a full consciousness of just what he 
was doing, that Goldsmith sought a more legitimate way, than 
that of burlesque, of restoring English comedy to its power over 
laughter. The Good Natured Man was offered Garrick at 
Drury Lane early in 1767; but Garrick hesitated, mistrustful 
of the innovation like the safe man that he appears always to 
have been; and, after a quarrel over the matter. Goldsmith's 
comedy was brought out a year later by Colman at Covent Gar- 
den. This, Garrick resented, placing in deliberate competition, 
Hugh Kelly's False Delicacy, a piece of the washiest sentimen- 
tality which scored a signal success while that of The Good 
Natured Man, which followed a few days after, was more 
than qualified. Indeed Garrick's mistrust of so bold a return 
to the comedy of humours by a contemporary was warranted in 
the proof. The capital scene, in which Honeywood dresses up 
the bailiffs in pieces of his own wardrobe to masquerade as his 
friends, was voted " low " by Goldsmith's genteel auditors and 
withdrawn; and the poet had the mortification to learn that 
the contemptible Kelly had made nearly four times as much 
out of his rival comedy. 

' Quoted by A. Dobson in his ed. of Goldsmith, 1905, p. xiv from 
the Westminster Magazine, December, 1772. 


The Good Natured Man, however loose and faulty In con- 
struction, was a better comedy than the English stage had seen 
since Farquhar. The figures, such as Honeywood with his easy 
nature and willingness to serve everybody, Croaker, worrying 
out his troubles before they occur and then taking them amicably, 
and Lofty with his officious importance and insinuating mendac- 
ity, are excellent " humorous " figures in the old sense of the 
word, and yet so originally and happily drawn as to produce 
a higher sense of reality than is common in their kind. There 
is, too, a geniality, as opposed to mere gaiety, and a natural- 
ness in the personages, their conduct and their admirably written 
parts that could have carried the town in almost any age 
except that of the dominion of sensibility and feeling. The time 
was not yet ripe ; and it was nearly five years later that She 
Stoops to Conquer reversed this verdict and carried the town 
by sheer force of genius. Between Goldsmith's two comedies, 
a second play of Kelly's — quite as good (or, for that matter, 
quite as bad) as the first — met with an accidental failure; and 
The West Indian by Richard Cumberland and among the 
best of its species, gained another triumph for the sentimental 
school. Whether it was the success or the failure of his rivals 
that encouraged him. Goldsmith set to work, late in 1771, on 
his second comedy, offering it to Colman early in the next year. 
It is a commentary on managerial discernment that, after 
nearly a year, all that the author could get from Colman was 
the return of his manuscript, scribbled over with criticisms and 
suggestions. At last with the bullying intervention of Dr. 
Johnson, Colman was brought to start the still nameless play 
in rehearsal; but his indilTerence communicated itself to the 
actors, some of whom even threw up their parts ; and it was not 
until March 1773 that She Stoops to Conquer was performed 
with a success alike complete, brilliant and lasting. Scattered 
were now the host of genteel comedy and the breath of fresh 
air was let into the playhouse. With the memory of the de- 
lightful, living personages of this celebrated comedy and its 
spontaneous humour, a part of our literary birthright, its laugh- 
able situations, engaging style and perfect acting quality, we 
cannot but deplore that a period should so soon have been set 
to the dramatic activity of Goldsmith. His comedy was like 
a tonic to the stage, and the stage needed many another like 
draught. But Goldsmith no longer stood alone. Just before 
the performance of She Stoops to Conquer, Foote had pro- 


duced, at his little theatre in the Haymarket, what he called 
" a primitive puppet show," burlesquing the sentimental drama 
and called The Handsome Housemaid or Piety in Pattens. 
Herein is set forth, in evident parody of such stories as Rich- 
ardson's Pamela, how a maiden of low degree "by the mere 
effect of morality and virtue, raised herself to riches and 
honour " ; and the auditors are assured that they will not dis- 
cover in the work " much wit or humour " as " his brother 
writers had all agreed that it was highly unpopular and be- 
neath the dignity of a mixed assembly to show any signs of joy- 
ful satisfaction." We may believe the report that, preceding 
Goldsmith's comedy by a month or more, this burlesque of 
Foote's helped to prepare the way for She Stoops to Conquer 
with a public, weary of the insipid morality Icng preached from 
the stage. 

Everything about Richard Brinsley Sheridan reads like a 
romance, and much has been perverted by those who^ spare 
neither fact nor character in the process. In contrast with the 
social and political eminence attained in a life crowded with 
triumphs yet checkered with vicissitudes, the story of his come- 
dies seems little more than an episode of his boyhood; yet Sheri- 
dan, the author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal, is 
known to thousands to whom his famous parliamentary career, 
his celebrated eloquence and even the numberless stories of his 
wit and engaging personality are the shadow of a recollection. 
Born in Dublin, his fatlier a clever actor, manager and elocu- 
tionist, his mother a playwright and novelist, what better par- 
entage could be demanded for the writer of comedy? Add to 
this a sanguine temper that courted adventure, an address and 
readiness that made every event an experience and an easy power 
of expression that rose, on occasion, to brilliancy and the equip- 
ment of the dramatist is complete. Sheridan's youth was spent 
in Bath, then at its height as the capital of pleasure, and his 
comedies, while not actually autobiographical, are coloured to 
a degree with the reminiscence of personal incidents the like of 
which he knew in the midst of what has been happily called 
" the sham chivalry and the sham romance of which he made 
such immortal fun." He had carried out, when less than 
twenty years of age an elopement with the beautiful Elizabeth 
Linley, who became his wife, precisely such as Lydia Languish 
had dreamed for herself and her " Beverly." He had fought 
two duels, when less than two and twenty, only a little more 


formidable than the Immortal meeting of Bob Acres with Sir 
Lucius O'Trigger; and the verses of his heroes, the raptures of 
his heroines, smacking both of them as yet of the age of senti- 
ment, even the follies and the fopperies of the whole circle of 
his dramatis personae, were things of which he was none the less 
observant in that he had shared in them all. 

Sheridan had been ambitious to write for the stage almost 
as a boy, but it was not until his tumultuous courtship was over 
that he carried the epic of his life into his works. The Rivals 
was written in six weeks and staged in November 1774, only 
to come perilously near failure because of its length and a mis- 
take in the assignment in the part of Sir Lucius. With per- 
fect good humour and the utmost good sense, Sheridan cut down 
his play, leaving out everything that had displeased and recast- 
ing the offending part; and offered it, some ten days later once 
more, with the very best cast the theatre could muster, to gain 
a popularity that has never since paled. The Rivals has been 
criticised as " a young play " and even the author was accus- 
tomed to declare that it was " one of the worst comedies in the 
language." But it is in the very qualities of sustained buoyancy 
and the high animal spirits of youth that the enduring charm of 
the work consists and it is this especially that has insured its 
perennial popularity. The Rivals was followed speedily by 
St. Patrick's Day, a farce written to display the talents of 
Clinch, who had created the role of Sir Lucius; and it served 
very well its temporary purpose. The Duenna, a year later, 
was an opera in the manner of Gay and in success second only 
to The Beggar s Opera. Sheridan was now twenty-four and 
the darling of the playgoer, his wit and talent no less admired 
than his courage and the romance that had made him " the 
husband of the loveliest woman and the sweetest singer of her 
day." His future as a dramatist seemed cut out for him; but 
with a volatility and daring that was characteristic of him, he 
aspired to become the manager of Drury Lane Theatre and to 
the amazement of every one, despite his youth, his inexperience 
in business of any kind and lack of the command of capital, he 
actually became not only manager but the chief owner of that 
historic house over which Garrick had so long presided. Where 
Sheridan obtained the money and how Garrick could have been 
content to thrust the difficult guidance of his glittering theatrical 
car to hands so youthful and unsteady, are matters which may 
well have excited wonder. As to the first, it has been explained 


that a share in Drury Lane was a share in a monopoly and there- 
fore as good a security as freehold land on which any banker 
would advance money ; and, secondly, that by the help of others 
and the mortgaged condition of the second moiety (not Gar- 
rick's) , which was acquired a year or two after, the transaction 
was completed with very little passing of actual money. " It 
appears," says Professor Matthews, who first cleared up the 
matter, " that Sheridan invested only £1,300 in cash when he 
bought one seventh of Drury Lane Theatre, in 1776, and that 
he received this back when he became possessed of one half of 
Drury Lane Theatre, in 1778, then valued [entire] at £90,- 
000." * As to Garrick's consent, he was ready and anxious 
to retire; Sheridan was the first dramatist of his age, however 
young and inexperienced, and of a dauntless courage and buoy- 
ant hopefulness. Garrick, like half the people of Sheridan's 
time, yielded to his inevitable, personal charm. 

After a revival of The Rivals and an adaptation of Van- 
brugh's Relapse, the new manager staged, in May 1 777, and 
with the greatest care ever bestowed upon a cast (we are told), 
his imperishable School for Scandal. Its success was absolute 
and to this the sympathy, suggestion and actual training of 
Garrick contributed in no small degree. The source of this 
second great comedy of Sheridan is referable, like the first, to 
a vivid recollection of certain of the author's own personal ex- 
periences. On his return to Bath, while he was recovering 
from the wounds of his second encounter, Sheridan was much 
exercised at the outrageous reports and scandals circulated 
about his private adventures and sketched out the plot of a 
comedy to be called The Slanderers. This he subsequently 
united with another rough draught concerning the domestic 
differences of the Teazle's and in this union The School for 
Scandal was wrought. But the essential contrast of the comedy 
— the contrast of Tom Jones and Bilfil — may have had an 
origin even more intimate; for Charles Surface, however faith- 
ful to a long dramatic ancestry, by way of Congreve and Van- 
brugh, Is possessed, with all his carelessness and inconsequence, 
of an essential soundness of heart and a personal charm that 
was recognisably the author's, while Sheridan's elder brother, 
Charles Francis, is described as " a plodding selfish man, who 
never ran avoidable risks, who was an unfilial son and an un- 
affectionate brother," in a word, potentially at least, a very 
8 See Brander Matthews, Sheridan's Comedies, 1885, p. 31- 


Joseph Surface. This celebrated comedy is avowedly a picture 
of life observed from a satirical point of view. In such a pic- 
ture, even of the frivolous society of Bath, no man looks for 
the accuracy of the chronicler, any more than for his dulness; 
although it may be questioned if even the satire of Sheridan 
could seriously misrepresent the actual malevolence of menda- 
cious gossip or the extravagant lengths of fashionable folly. As 
already suggested, the dramatist owed much to a long tradition, 
but The School for Scandal did not follow The Way of the 
World by nearly three generations for nothing. 

Congreve's brilliant soulless dramatic art, as we have seen, 
fails to be truly satirical for the want of any real moral stand- 
ard by which to measure the conduct of his personages. Possi- 
bly only the malicious — though who of us is free from malice ? 
— can enjoy to the full so complete an exposure of the detest- 
able social world in which his comedies had their roots and 
their being: at least it is difficult for the man not of his time 
to reach the moral detachment necessary to an appraisement of 
the comedies of Congreve solely for their literary worth. Be- 
tween Congreve and Sheridan, the sentimental comedy had in- 
tervened which, with all its platitudinous over-emphasis of the 
moral aspects in life, had at least established a standard of con- 
duct and with it a fulcrum for the lever of satire. No one can 
mistake either of Sheridan's great comedies for a lecture on 
morals; for, without further stricture on this score, the scape- 
grace is forgiven as he has been time out of mind in comedy — 
and in life — and we are taught that verily does a good heart 
cover a multitude of follies. But if these comedies are not " the 
purest morals undefiled by wit," neither do they hold up to 
our admiration a mode of life at which good men revolt or, on 
the other hand substitute for a hearty laugh at the foolishness 
of mankind a mawkish sentimentalising over the distresses of vir- 
tue. In a word it is the wholesomeness of Sheridan's humour 
that has given his comedies their place with Goldsmith's; and 
the popularity of both authors is an evidence of a healthy 
dramatic taste. Sheridan's last original drama was The Critic 
performed in 1779, the year of Garrick's death. The senti- 
mental drama, scotched by Goldsmith, was still living on to the 
evening of its day, more particularly in the dramas of Richard 
Cumberland, an abler man than either Murphy or Colman, 
active in public affairs, in many kinds of letters and the author 
of more than fifty plays, now totally forgotten. Moved by 


the welcome always accorded to The Rehearsal on revival, 
Sheridan conceived the idea of bringing this famous burlesque 
of the drama up to date and in the upshot wrote a mock play 
that surpassed his example. The Critic, like The Rehearsal 
represents a play within a play; and from that famous piece 
Sheridan derived, too, the clever artifice by which an author is 
made to witness a performance of his own play and comment 
upon it to his friends. From Tom Thumb, Sheridan borrowed 
the idea of a parody on a supposed tragedy of English histori- 
cal subject, here the Spanish Armada. But Sheridan bettered 
all his models and devised, in the person of Sir Fretful Plagiary, 
a personal lampoon which surpassed the poet Bayes, alike as it 
represented Dryden and as afterwards adapted to the lesser 
laureate, Gibber. " There is perhaps no other example," says 
Mr. Gosse, " of the absolute destruction of a reputation by 
ridicule so 'complete as that of Cumberland by the picture of 

Sir Fretful Plagiary." , , . cu -j ^ 

And now triumphant in comedy and satire, bheridan turned 
from the stage to the almost equally theatrical field of politics. 
His achievements and vicissitudes there and his long struggle 
from the zenith of success as a playwright and manager to all 
but complete financial ruin, do not concern our story. In 
Sheridan the old drama that took its original impulse from 
Marlowe and Shakespeare expires. There is nothing that has 
followed in its kind, whether comedy or tragedy, that is not 
contained well within the ample superficies of the great drama 
that was. Time had gone on and even the genius of Gold- 
smith and Sheridan could not restore the past. Literature and 
the stage were thenceforth to be all but completely separated, as 
poetry had long been banished the drama; and their revival 
was to come independently and apart. Between The Ring and 
the Book or Swinburne's trilogy of Mary Stuart and a tragedy 
of Shakespeare there is as great a difference as between either 
and Clarissa Harlowe; and the accident that some of our poets 
have written for the stage, like artists seeking experiments in an 
alien material, does not account for the fact that, in the Eng- 
lish language at least, our playwrights — dare we say even 
until recently? — have not been our poets. 



Save for Goldsmith and Sheridan, as we have seen, acting 
drama, during the reign of George III, scarcely deserves 
chronicling in the annals of literature. Imitators these masters 
of comedy had, but none of conspicuous talent; and as yet the 
drama, written only to be read, was as unreadable as it was un- 
actable. However, it is not altogether fair to refer the increas- 
ing decrepitude of the drama solely to a want of talent on the 
part of the playwrights. The ancient challenge of Collier that 
the stage reform or be shunned by decent men, was re-echoed 
throughout the century and the strong religious movements 
and efforts, reformatory of manners, tended not only to re- 
strain the license of the stage but restricted its patronage among 
honest and godfearing men. By the time that the regenerative 
influences of the Wesleys were making themselves felt, the 
licensing act of 1737 had already passed, restricting the per- 
formance of legitimate drama to the two licensed theatres and 
restoring the censorship of the government over plays. The 
feeble opposition against these measures is alone enough to de- 
clare how weakened was the influence of the stage. Under such 
conditions it was safer for managers to temporise with old and 
tried material than to risk the uncertainties of novelty. With 
the demand so limited and the necessity of making each new 
play a theatrical success, whatever else it might be, the breach 
between plays written to be acted and plays written to be read, 
which had been bridged over in comedy by Goldsmith and Sheri- 
dan and in tragedy not at all, became wider and wider, marking 
at first no more than the difference between Dr. Johnson and 
Home, it came in time to mark the disparity between Shelley 
and Sheridan Knowles, or between Browning and T. W. 
Robertson. We have thus as to drama on the stage, restriction 
by law, limiting the output of plays, and competition among 
playwrights, a limitation of the constituency supporting the 
theatre owing to the contemporary moral and religious attitude 



towards the stage, and the drawing off of the best literary and 
poetic talent to the safer returns of the novel or the ampler 
poetic possibilities of the closet play.^ 

Among the writers of comedy who immediately followed 
Goldsmith, CKeeffe, Macklin, Reynolds and the younger Col- 
man are perhaps the least forgotten. The first has the gaiety 
and natural flow of humour that has made his countrymen time 
out of mind the world's jesters. Macklin, notable as an actor, 
wrote a remarkable satiric comedy in his old age. The Man of 
The World, although of an older school and really prior to 
Sheridan. In Frederic Reynolds we have a typical prolific 
maker of plays to order, without the technical skill of a Scribe 
or even a Tom Taylor; while in Colman (famous in his day 
like Reynolds) as an improvisator, the representation of character 
was often reduced to an incessant repetition of some oddity or 
peculiarity of speech and manner that his auditors found ex- 
cruciatingly comical while his sentiment is described by Leigh 
Hunt as " mouthed " and " overdone " " in the manner of a 
man who is telling a lie." To these may be added Mrs. Inch- 
bald, Thomas Morton and Holcroft whose one great theatrical 
feat 'was the capture of Le Marriage de Figaro by Beau- 
marchais by memory and conveyance of it across the channel 
and into English in his Follies of the Day. Holcroft's most 
popular play, The Road to Ruin, holds the provincial stage even 
to-day. Still obstinate in the ways of the older comedy of man- 
ners as exhibited in The Clandestine Marriage, which he wrote 
in collaboration with Garrick, was the elder Colman who died 
in 1794 to be succeeded by the vivacious son whom we have 
just mentioned. Among the sentimentalists, Kelly dying in 
1777, Cumberland "the Terence of England, the mender of 
hearts," as Goldsmith called him, continued his tearful way 
despite the satirical slings of Sheridan, a busy playwright, essay- 
ist and writer of general literature, confidently assured of his 
own enduring fame whatever might be true of his contempo- 
raries. It has been pointed out that in Hannah More, the 
feminization of tragedy, begun in Otway and Southerne, con- 
tinued in the " she-tragedies," of Rowe, as he himself dubbed 
them, to reach in Hill, Murphy and Cumberland its culmina- 
tion.' Her Percy, 1777, was a very successful play, and her 
1 On the later drama see the excellent chapter (ix) by T. Seccombe 
in The Age of Johnson, 1900, pp. 199 ff- 


Fatal Falsehood, a drama of doKiestic sentiment, only less so. 
Notwithstanding the attacks of She Stoops to Conquer and The 
Rivals on the strongholds of sentim«^nt, little more was actually 
accomplished than the readmission into serious drama of a cer- 
tain quantum of low comedy. This, Holcroft justifies, for 
example, in the preface to his popular drama. Duplicity, though 
here, as in others of his and in Cumberland's Jew and Wheel 
of Fortune, the virtuous steadfastly suffer and the heavens 
threaten to fall, tears furrow the countenance of comedy and 
the cause of morality is vindicated and upheld. In short the 
auditor of the late eighteenth century had long lost the robust- 
ness of constitution necessary to the endurance of the rigours 
of tragedy ; and, while still willing to be harrowed and thrilled 
by situations, at which good taste in any age must revolt, de- 
manded that he be sent home satisfied that no real harm had 
been done to any human creature, that morals had been up- 
held, the wicked reformed (rather than punished) and the good 
substantially rewarded for being good. 

If it could be in any wise necessary to appreciate to the full 
the insignificance of the bulk of the eighteenth drama, we need 
but compare it with the giant stature that the novel had reached 
in Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, to be succeeded 
in Fanny Burney, Mrs. Radcliffe and the following romanti- 
cists, in Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen, to look no further 
forward. The drama was the last form of literature to feel 
the quickening approach of the romantic return of the year. 
When at last the stage did awaken to the fact that the world 
was changed about it, it was influenced only by the coarser 
and more obvious elements in " the renascence of wonder," the 
delicate and poetical finding a more congenial place almost any- 
where else. If we look for "traces" and "premonitions," 
there is a touch of fatalism and an appreciation for natural 
scene In Douglas which, with Its indeterminate mediaeval set- 
ting, derived from the ballad of Childe Maurice, dimly fore- 
shadows the romantic manner. As much cannot be said for 
Hannah More's Percy, despite a similar origin. To the elder 
Colman has been ascribed a part In the reawakening Interest In 
Elizabethan drama, witnessed In the revival of plays of Fletcher 
and Massinger as well as in a certain effort to Imitate Eliza- 
bethan methods and diction. And before long the medl^eval- 
Ism of the new contemporary fiction, Its Gothic horrors, super- 
naturalism and feeling for nature as accompanying and affecting 


in Its various aspects the affairs of men, begins to show its par- 
allels on the stage, Walpole himself wrote an unacted play 
The Mysterious Another, in 1 768, which is not an unworthy 
companion of The Castle of Otranto, itself adapted for the 
stage and acted in 1781, as The Count of Nar bonne. Other 
" Gothic tragedies " are Robert Jephson's Braganza, 1775, which 
boasts itself, in the prologue, as " warm from Shakespeare's 
school," his Julia, 1787, a very popular play, the scene of which 
is Elizabethan England, and Cumberland's Carmelite, 1784; 
and all preceded the German romantic influence. To these 
premonitions of romanticism may justly be added an effort to 
comprehend the older age of dramatic greatness and deprecate 
the use of its stately marble structures to build temporary 
dramatic hovels, noticeable more particularly in a gradual return 
to the acting of Shakespeare's plays in a state approximately 
that in which he left them, and even more in the honourable 
succession of editors of the great poet, each more circumspect 
than the last in taking liberties with the text. None the less, 
it remains a commentary on the stage of the time and the want 
of taste and discernment in the public, that it took the insight 
of an eminent actor, who had learned its insipid lines, and an 
exhaustive scholarly " enquiry " by an equally eminent Shake- 
spearean to expose the impudent association of Shakespeare's 
name by Ireland with his worthless " ancient British " tragedy 
of Vortigern. Well has the history of the drama in the age of 
Wordsworth been summed up as " the impact of successive 
waves of romantic method and motif upon the solid intrench- 
ments of theatrical tradition; with the result, that while the 
grosser and baser elements found ready entrance, the finer and 
more poetic were stubbornly beaten back, and only towards the 
close of the period began to filtrate perceptibly through." ^ 

We found English drama when at its lowest ebb as literature 
most widely affecting the stages of France and Germany through 
the homely domestic tragedy of Barnwell. Similarly now, it 
was not the great romantic dramatists of Germany, Goethe, 
Schiller or. Lessing, whose poetry and ideality was to reach and 
influence the English stage, but the more obvious, clever and 
adaptable theatrical qualities of the romantic dramas of Kot- 
zebue. William Taylor of Norwich and Sir Walter Scott 
translated Goethe and Lessing, reaching those who read poetry 
2 C. H. Herford, The Age of Wordsiuorth, 1897, p. 135. 


rather than the theatregoer; it was Benjamin Thompson and 
Anne Plumptre who were chief among some thirty or more 
Engh'sh translators of a score of the two hundred dramatic 
productions of Kotzebue; while Mrs. Inchbald, " Monk " Lewis 
and others hastened to adapt the new German wonder to the 
English stage. Between 1797 and 1801, Kotzebue had an 
enormous vogue. The conquest was complete in The Stranger 
(Menschenhass und Reue) , acted at Drury Lane in 1798; and, 
in the next year, even Sheridan lent his talents to the adapta- 
tion and staging, in Pizarro {Die Spanier in Peru), of much 
that kind of fustian romantic history that he had covered with 
ridicule in The Critic, to be rewarded by the issue within three 
years of nearly thirty editions and translation back again into 
German. The phenomenal fortune of Kotzebue in England 
has been attributed to several causes. In the first place he is a 
consummate master of stagecraft and often as witty as he is 
clever. Secondly he appealed strongly to the prevailing love 
of the sentimental from which English drama seems never to 
have been able to shake itself free; and this appeal is given a 
wider social and political character which fell in thoroughly 
with the democratic and humanitarian temper of the moment. 
Kotzebue received the extraordinary hearing, accorded to him 
in the theatres of the civilised world, because of the paradoxical 
attitude that he had caught from the new romanticism, more 
particularly as promulgated by Rousseau, the type of romantic 
sentimentality that sets up natural impulse against the customs 
and the laws of man and, with greater magnanimity than justice, 
extenuates great offences because of trivial virtues and trifling 
good deeds. Like some of our own time, Kotzebue habitually 
enforces the exception for the overthrow of the rule, gaining 
assent to a partial truth to make a point against convention. He 
is as capable, if not nearly so witty, as Mr. Shaw in exposing 
the wrongs of society and he is utterly wanting — here most 
unlike Mr. Shaw — in any sincere underlying ethical principle. 
There is nothing new in the " problem," as we should call it, of 
The Stranger which is the same with that of A Woman Killed 
With Kindness. But the Elizabethan met his question frankly, 
merely sketching the figure of the unfaithful wife and vindicat- 
ing the superiority of the ethics of forgiveness over those of 
revenge. Kotzebue sentimentalised the situation of separation 
and estrangement, "compassionated an adulteress," as Mrs. 


Inchbald puts it, in her prefatory " remarks " to Thompson's 
translation, allowing his " pity " to " deviate into vice by restor- 
ing this woman to her former rank in life under the roof of her 
injured husband." The age must have revelled in the tears, 
generosities and struggles for command over feeling of the 
stranger and his Adelaide, in the final parting, converted into 
reconciliation by the timely thrusting in of the long motherless 
children and the rest of the lachrymose claptrap that appears 
" to do the business " with impressionable humanity when better 
stuff fails. Kotzebue is largely the old sentimental drama in 
a new romantic masque. Pizarro, we might almost call a 
resuscitation of the old heroic drama in its repetitions of the 
rival lovers and the rival ladies in the atmosphere of a far away 
and delightfully unknown Peru ; while in the matter of strained 
emotion, even the hero of honour, distracted and distorted, is 
surpassed in " the renunciatory lover," as he has been called, 
" who sacrifices all for the happiness of the angel who loves not 
himself but his friend." ^ There are always those who mistake 
acute cynicism as to present conditions for the revelation of a 
new gospel. A translation of Kotzebue's Negersklaven was 
dedicated to Wilberforce, strange irony as to an author, whose 
life was that of a political reactionary and whose death came to 
him in the guise of an enthusiast's stroke for liberty. Neither 
artistically nor for any serious " reading of life," could Kotzebue 
be taken into account. Nor could more be looked for from 
Lewis (also one of his translators), whose notorious novel. 
The Monk with its diablerie and rococo romanticism is of much 
the stuff of his plays, Castle Spectre, his Adelgitha and Venoni 
which came and went with the German revival. Grotesque 
caricatures of the imitators of Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen 
as these productions of " Monk Lewis " are, they link on to 
the literary translations of that famous romantic play by Taylor 
and Scott, while the latter's tragedy, The House of Aspen, 
" actually taken up," we are informed by Lockhart, and put 
in rehearsal for the stage," discloses the wider relations of this 
species of the drama to the romantic fiction and balladry that, 
beginning in Mrs. RadcHfT and Bishop Percy's revival of old 
balladry, rose to The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border and 
the Waverley Novels. The influence of Schiller was less effi- 
cient, however one of his gigantic figures of romance cast its 

3 A. H. Thorndike, Tragedy, p. 328. 


shadow far before to modify in Maturin's Bertram, 1816, one 
of the latest outcomes of the Gothic school. 

The larger issues of the romantic revival can little concern 
so brief a sketch as this of the form of literature that was least 
radically affected by it. Not only was Scott carried by the 
eddy of the moment into the writing of a tragedy under German 
inspiration; the same was true of Wordsworth and Coleridge, 
The Borderers of the one, Osorio of the other, respectively 
offered to the managers of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, 
were refused by both in 1798. And, indeed, neither could be 
conceived of as successful on the stage, however the latter, re- 
vised as Remorse, met with a qualified acceptance when acted. 
Both young authors were directly affected by the romantic 
spirit of contemporary German literature; but Schiller, not 
Kotzebue, stood for that inspiration; however conscious Cole- 
ridge might be of the apparatus of the school of terror or Words- 
worth of Godwin's principles of Political Justice, neither was 
unmindful of the deeper and more powerful traditions of Shake- 
speare and the English past. Moreover, incident, even character 
itself, was not that in which they were primarily interested ; it 
was rather " the power of passion to reveal the depths of human 
nature " that was their quest ; and for the expression of this they 
found solution not in drama but in the lyric, raised to new and 
more significant uses in Lyrical Ballads. 

This idea of making the drama the means of a delineation of 
the stronger passions of the mind was followed out with ex- 
traordinary diligence and completeness by Joanna Baillie in her 
Plays of the Passions that range, some twenty-eight in number, 
from 1798 to 1 812. Her notion was to illustrate in each play 
a dominant human passion, traced from its beginning to its end 
in ruin or satisfaction. To this she concentrated attention on the 
origin of that passion within, not as stimulated by external cir- 
cumstance or happening; and subordinated all incident, develop- 
ment of character, even poetry and its embellishments, to a 
rigorous search for passion in its isolation. Her medium is verse ; 
one is surprised, with her theory, why not prose. She presents 
in these dramas, a variety of subjects, domestic and historical, 
and is far from unaffected by the outward implements of 
romance, knights, vaulted Gothic chambers, music by night, 
moonlight and witchcraft. Miss Baillie wrote ostentatiously 
for the stage, as her many elaborate stage directions go to show, 
yet her works are full of improbabilities and her ignorance of 


any real stagecraft is patent. Several of these dramas were 
acted in London and Edinburgh and one of her tragedies, De 
Montfort, held the stage for a short time. Her comedies, 
which professed to substitute character for incident and intrigue, 
had even less chance for success on the stage. The extravagant 
praise that Joanna Baillie's work received at the hands of the 
most judicious of her contemporaries, Scott, Campbell and Byron 
among them, must continue a matter of surprise to any who may 
have attempted the reading of her dull, prolix and unillu- 
minated scenes. But after all, she was merely tr>'ing to do for 
the drama what Wordsworth, after a generation of abuse, ac- 
complished for lyrical poetry, return it to the language of every- 
day life and, in the fervour of an actual representation of a 
single passion, raise the product into the region of poetry. Un- 
happily Miss Baillie was devoid of genius and her age appre- 
ciated her sincerity, her morality and clearly defined purpose 
and humanitarian spirit as we, at this distance, can not. 

To return to the popular stage, of the effect of the monopoly 
of the two licensed theatres on the nature of the drama we have 
already heard in these pages. This restriction, however broken 
through at times, discouraged, as we have seen, original drama 
of serious intent and encouraged, in the illegal houses, not only 
evasions of the law but the upgrowth of innumerable dramatic 
hybrids — the opera, operetta, farce, pantomime, burlesque, bur- 
letta, melodrama at last — all of which conspired to lower the tone 
of the stage and to substitute mere diversion and the charms of 
novelty and surprise for the legitimate pleasure of true drama. 
The enlargement of the licensed houses, in 1791 and 1794, 
and again, on their burning and rebuilding, in 1808 and 1809, 
brought, besides, another disadvantage. Not only were new 
productions discouraged but the old must be now more than 
ever adapted to auditoriums in which the spoken word was lost 
in the large dimensions of the house ; and the legitimate drama, 
as well as the illegitimate, was bolstered perforce by spectacles, 
machines and great effects, with songs, choruses and other mu- 
sical additions. In this dilation and amplification of the drama, 
so to call it, Colman the younger was a leader, as clever as he 
was unabashed and daring. In the process he achieved a new 
and preposterous species of dramatic entertainment made up of 
tragedy, comedy, opera and farce: the tragedy is blank-verse of 
a Shakespearean sound, whatever its sense, the rest concocted of 
farce in prose, dance and song, effect of light, scene, concourse 


on the stage and. what not. The Surrender of Calais has for 
its basis the story of Queen Philippa's ransom of that be- 
leaguered town, The Battle of Hexham is a love story thrust 
into a chronicle play and served with much extraneous sauce, 
The Mountaineers borrows a story from Don Quixote and en- 
livens the whole with a humorous Irishman, and The Iron Chest 
dramatizes Godwin's story of remorse for murder, Caleb Wil- 
liams. Colman's comedies, if less extravagant, are equally in- 
genious and his burlesque verses and unfailing wit made him a 
favourite in the society of the Regency and led to his appoint- 
ment, by King George IV, to the office of licenser of plays 
which he exercised with unexpected rigour and ability. 

It was in 1802 that Holcroft, Colman's most prolific com- 
petitor, added the new French entertainment, known as melo- 
drame, to the resources of the illegitimate drama, supplying much 
the kind of thing that Colman had been giving, with a somewhat 
greater infusion of incidental and descriptive music, reducing the 
dialogue in part to dumb show and increasing the rapidity of the 
action, the sensations, startling situations and mechanical tricks. 
The Gothic tale and the contemporary romantic novel were the 
natural quarry of material for such productions. Leaving Hol- 
croft who is only typical of his kind, we read of a stage version 
of Roh Roy, in 1818, in which the role of Diana Vernon be- 
comes a singing part, but in which, none the less, Macready 
gained one of his theatrical successes; and of Don Sebastian, 
turned at once into a musical play and into prose, illustrating 
a highly exciting action, combining " equestrian combats, real 
water, cataracts and machinery for thrilling escapes." Melo- 
drama,^ however it originally denoted a play involving music, 
lost this as a feature before long, and came to be characterised 
mainly by the rapidity and incessant quality of its action, its 
startling situations aided by mechanical devices, its dumb shows, 
vivid contrast of vice and virtue and an Inevitably happy ending 
for the good with a corresponding dealing out of appropriate 
punishment for the wicked. It is noticeable that not a single 
feature in this category is new; each had long existed and all 
were degraded in the combination. Melodrama has not yet 
become extinct nor is it likely to perish alone by the influence 
ofhigher ideals or better art. It has now to reckon with some- 
thing lower than itself ; for, in comparison with the banalities of 
the music hall and the " musical comedy " and the suggestive- 
ness of much besides that masquerades under a better name, 


melodrama Is an honest, if a gross, art and better on that score 
than the frank immorality of our older comedy or the perverted 
outlook of the drama of sentiment. But what of any true 
drama in such an age? crowded by melodrama, farce, sentiment 
and nonsense, by the opera for lovers of music by the novel 
among readers for story, by poetry for lovers of beauty, it is 
no wonder that the stage languished of a wasting illness from 
which recovery was more than doubtful and that the best in- 
tellects, after a failure or two should have turned to fields not 
so hopelessly barren. 

But it is not to be supposed that the young and ardent poets 
who were carried away on the waves of the new romantic poetry 
were content to leave the stage to melodrama and its like. 
From Southey's somewhat abortive attempt to dramatize a re- 
cent event in The Fall of Robespierre, 1794. into the reign of 
Queen Victoria, there is scarcely a name of poetical or other 
literary prominence to which there is not attached some effort in 
the drama. Scott contented himself after the rejection of I he 
House of Aspen with an occasional dramatic sketch such as 
Macduff's Cross or Holidon Hill, suggesting unrealised possi- 
bilities in the direction of romantic historical drama. Godwin 
transferred less of the revolutionary ideas of his novels than 
might have been expected to a couple of dramas, .^n/omo and 
Faulkner, which failed as signally as Charles Lambs John 
JToodvil, born as It was of enthusiasm for Elizabethan poetry 
and a following of Joanna Baillie's idea of an exposition of the 
passions from within and mainly by soliloquy. A happier stage 
"imitation of the old dramatic writers ' was Tohms Curfew 
which enjoyed a run of twenty nights, In 1807, and is as tar 
from poetry as Lamb was remote from drama. To the year 
1812 belongs Landor's f^rst and best tragedy, Count Julian, m 
which his success in portraying the character of the protagonist 
is proportionate to his revelations of the poets seli Here, in 
the trilog}^ of the story of Giovanna of Naples, and The biege of 
Ancona (all of which followed In publication long after in the 
forties), Landor maintains that literary isolation that is always 
his- these tragedies are splendid literary works, but their rela- 
tion to the stage is scarcely greater than that of The Imaginary 

Conversations. ^ . 1 £f x v ♦« 

With Coleridge's revision of his Osorio and otter ot it to 

the stage under the title Remorse, in 1817, the poets begm a 

new and determined effort to recover the stage for poetic and 


romantic tragedy. Coleridge owed the acceptance of Remorse 
to the good graces of Byron ; and the novel beauty of its diction 
and a certain fervour sustained it for twenty nights and ex- 
torted from so tried a theatrical critic as Genest the words " a 
tolerable tragedy." It must have struck the average auditor of 
the day with disappointment, rather than with any sense of 
novelty, that Coleridge's avenger seeks not blood, but contri- 
tion, in the brother who has done him wrong; and all the in- 
trigue, rebellion, the necromancy and madness of this beauti- 
fully written tragedy could little sustain a plot in which all 
is disclosed in the first two acts. Before the performance of 
Remorse, Coleridge had offered Drury Lane his Zapolya, a 
Christmas Tale, avowed " an humble imitation of The Winter's 
Tale of Shakespeare," but despite a romantic plot and an elabo- 
rate effort at action, variety and stage effect, the play was re- 
fused. Remorse^ reached a third edition in the year of its per- 
formance and was revived once in 181 7, and with this ends 
Coleridge's association with the theatre. And now parallel with 
stage successes of Sheridan Knowles and Sheil's Elizabethan 
adaptations, Byron, Shelley, Milman and Procter and even 
Keats, turned their attention to the drama. 

Byron's actual preoccupation with the drama is concentrated 
almost within the limits of the single year 1821, although early 
in 1 81 6, while a member of the subcommittee of management at 
Drury Lane, he cast a German tale into dramatic form, in 
Werner, with the purpose of representation on the stage. 
Werner was rewritten in 1822, after the experience that his 
other plays brought him; and, acted (first in New York in 
1826 and at Drury Lane in 1830), was one of the stage suc- 
cesses of its time. Manfred, begun later in 1816, is a very dif- 
ferent production. Whether the poignant regret for the inevit- 
able past that characterises this tragedy comes of a terrible page 
in the autobiography of the poet or not, this extraordinary dra- 
matic poem owes its indirect inspiration to Goethe's Faust which 
Lewis had read and translated to Byron, howsoever it is like- 
wise a lyrical expression of the poet's self, exalted and abased 
before the grandeur of Alpine scenery. In Marino Faliero, 
begun almost immediately after Manfred, Byron made a serious 
effort to transplant to the stage the poetry of rebellion that 
was his. But distractions intervened and other work and it 
was not until 1820 that he resumed the task. With a subject 
dealing with an historical conspiracy, not unlike Venice Pre- 


served, one, moreover, in which an historic parallel is discern- 
ible to" the mischief now afoot " which he hoped " might send 
the barbarians of all nations back to their own dens," the author, 
with characteristic inconsistency, announces his determination to 
escape " the reproach of the English theatrical compositions " 
" by preserving a nearer approach to unity in substituting the 
regularity of French and Italian, models for the barbarities of 
the Elizabethan dramatists and their successors."* Against 
his will and almost against his legal action, Marino Faliero 
was acted at Drury Lane early in 1821; and, although re- 
peated seven times, was coldly received, as the author had pre- 
dicted. Genest echoed the popular impression that '' despite 
the beauty and spirit of [Byron's] dialogue and the just de- 
lineation of his characters ... too much is said, and too little 
is done." But of the play, Goethe wrote: "We forget that 
Lord Byron or an Englishman wrote it. The personages speak 
quite for themselves and their own condition, without having 
any of the subjective feelings, thoughts and opinions of the poet." 
And indeed, it may be admitted that in this tragedy, more than 
any other, Byron achieved the detachment and objectivity es- 
sential to dramatic success. But Byron had passed for himself 
" a selfdenying ordinance to dramatize, like the Greeks . . . 
striking passages of history," and Sardanapalus and The Two 
Foscari, following close upon Marino Faliero, were acted by 
Macready after Byron's death and both achieved all the success 
that a great name and splendid powers sustaining noble theories, 
counter to contemporary practice, could give them. The Two 
Foscari is another V'enetian play, of much the general nature 
of Merino Faliero. Both plots are romantically improbable, 
however faithfully founded on the authorities that the poet 
consulted; for the probabilities of life and the probabilities of 
the stage are two things; and this the romantic poets rarely 
discovered. Sardanapalus is different; for in the Assyrian 
voluptuary, suddenly transformed to a figure of chivalric glory, 
in his " remorseful recognition of the sanctity of wedlock," his 
easy, dissolute nature, even in his sly sarcasm of temper, we have 
one of those interesting and incessantly recurrent projections 
of the author's self into his work. Sardanapalus is thus trans- 
formed from its species, an eighteenth century tragedy of palace 
intrigue, into a romantic and poetic expression of the poet's 

^ Byron, ed. Coleridge, 1901, iv, 327. 


own experience and passion. Save for Heaven and Earth, 
a mystery, and The Deformed Transformed, a recurrence 
to the Faust legend, which had an irresistible attraction for 
Byron, there remains Cain, a splendid dramatic discant on the 
text, " Man walketh in a vain shadow," a poem in which Byron 
dared to try conclusions with Milton himself and about as 
capable of presentation on the stage as Paradise Lost. It was 
an audacious thing to dare match Milton's Lucifer, " the ab- 
straction of infernal pride," and Goethe's Mcphistopheles, the 
universal mocker of good and evil, with his Satan, who is alike 
a spirit and a mortal, " the traducer," as Mr. Coleridge puts 
it, " because he has suffered for his sins, the deceiver, because 
he is self-deceived ; the hoper against hope that there is a ransom 
for the soul in perfect self will and not in perfect self sacrifice." ^ 
It is a commentary on the weakness of the stage as well as a 
tribute to the superb genius that Byron's Cain, with its daring 
and subtle attack on the conventional theological opinions of its 
day should have created a sensation and exerted a power which 
no acted play could ever attain. 

Equally typical of the romantic revolt against the shackles 
of creed and convention are the two fine dramas of Shelley. 
The Cenci was inspired by the current traditions of that ter- 
rible story of incest and parricide as a type of the eternal strug- 
gle of man for justice and his eternal defeat. The elements 
of contrast here, as in Cain and in Shelley's Prometheus Un- 
bound, are the tyranny of fact and law over essential innocence, 
helpless and betrayed. And the clarity with which the theme 
is developed, the skill by which its personages are disclosed in 
their passions, and the naturalness and truth of its situations 
and climaxes are as admirable as the language is simple, direct 
and unclogged with the usual embellishments of romantic art. 
The romance here, as in the greater dramas of Byron, is in the 
heart of the subject. The Cenci is an amazing first play, and 
the more extraordinary coming from the hand of a poet so 
purely lyrical in his art as is Shelley. It was ofFered to Drury 
Lane and declined because of the subject, though with a rec- 
ognition of its merits; and the author was invited to submit 
another play. In Prometheus Unbound, the lyrist in Shelley 
reasserted itself, though the poem is equally, if not in a loftier 
degree, a triumphant presentation of the same world conflict 

5 Ibid., V. 201. 


of the unconquerable individual will against the tyranny of con- 
stituted authority. The range, when all has been said, of the 
poetic genius of such men as Byron and Shelley, was infinitely 
beyond the hackneyed conventionalities of the Georgian stage, 
if such genius does not actually transcend the conceivable 
limitations of acted drama in the abstract. And yet the rebel 
philosophy, the cry for enfranchisement, political, social and 
artistic, the clarity of vision, the power to compel words and 
to wing them with the spirit of poetry, all of which belonged to 
these divine and great souled singers of the poetry of revolt, 
in some other age and with fewer literary and other distrac- 
tions, might have crystallised their work in imperishable dramatic 
form. Byron and Shelley both died before the time of ful- 
filment. We feel, especially as to Shelley, of whose develop- 
ment almost anything might have been predicted, that, once 
more, in his death, the drama suffered an irreparable loss. 
As to the lesser men, their contemporaries in the literary drama, 
even Keats, whose exquisite poetry is so essentially lyrical and 
descriptive, was emulous of " the writing of a few fine plays," 
and actually submitted his Otlio the Great (the plot of which 
had been mapped out for him by another hand, he furnishing 
only the language and imagery), to both the licensed theatres. 
The tragedy got no further than a promised rehearsal. A better 
fate awaited Milman's Fazio, " an attempt," says the author, 
" at reviving the old national drama with greater simplicity of 
plot," and though by a young clergyman, " written with some 
view to the stage." After one or two unauthorised perform- 
ances elsewhere, Fazio gained a metropolitan success in 1818 
and continued in favour, with all its florid eighteenth century 
diction, for the possibilities of its chief woman's part. None 
of the other somewhat more Byronic plays of this notable scholar 
and historian are memorable. A few years later. Miss Mitford, 
the popular novelist, gained recognition as a tragic writer for 
the stage in three or four productions, Julian, Foscari (written 
she declared before Byron's), and, most successful of all, Rienzi 
acted for more than a month in 1828. Her friend, too, Thomas 
Noon Talfourd, the biographer of Lamb, a leading critic of 
his day and later a judge, achieved a somewhat unexpected suc- 
cess in his classical tragedy Ion, which he was unable to equal 
in several later efforts. Procter (the Barry Cornwall of song 
and literary friendship), furnished the stage two or three 
dramas, accepted in their day, most important among them, 


Mirandola, acted as far back as 1821 ; and nearly twenty years 
later Leigh Hunt, who belongs in the impetus of his prose and 
poetry alike to this earlier period, staged with deserved recogni- 
tion his poetical drama The Legend of Florence. Most of 
romantic drama that immediately follows his time fell under 
the spell of Byron. But there was a Wordsworthian poetic 
influence more calm, more meditative and, it may be added, 
more remote alike from the bustle of life and the stage. As to 
these plays, more strictly of the study, to mention only two of 
the more prominent. Sir Aubrey de Vere's Julian the Apostate, 
1822, and his Duke of Mercia, of the next year, were separated 
both in time and degree of excellence from his Mary Tudor, 
1847, which some have placed in comparison with Tennyson's 
drama on the same historic subject; and Sir Henry Taylor, 
despite his Isaac Comnenus, 1827, praised by Southey, and later 
tragedies and comedies as well, remains memorable for his much 
lauded Philip van Artevelde which absorbed, as it exhausted, 
his thoughtful, lucid and essentially undramatic genius. 

Mr. Archer, in an excellent chapter on the drama during the 
reign of Queen V^ictoria, has told of the continued struggle of 
" the minor houses " against the intrenched patent theatres and 
how theatrical " free trade " was at last established to the benefit 
of all by the act of 1843. He has told there, also how the age 
of the Kemble's, coming to its close, was succeeded by that of 
Macready, a stern but conscientious helmsman of the dramatic 
bark in waters commonly stormy, and, what was far more, the 
friend and encourager, so far as he was able, of literary and 
poetic endeavour for the stage. As to the state of dramatic 
literature the critic draws a picture, discouraging enough, — 
" the ghost of the romantic drama stalked the stage," he tells 
us, " decked out in threadbare frippery and gibbering blank- 
verse. No one had yet reflected that, though Shakespeare might 
be for all time, his forms and methods were evolved to suit the 
needs of an age quite different from ours." Showing how 
Shakespeare was misinterpreted and misunderstood, he con- 
cludes " laboured rhetoric, whether serious or comic, was held 
to be the only ' legitimate ' form of dramatic utterance. This 
was literature — all else was mere drama and farce." ^ The 
leading dramatist, at the accession of Queen Victoria, was 
Sheridan Knowles, an Irishman, a Sheridan on his mother's 

6 The Reign of Victoria, 1887, edited by T. H. Ward, ii, 565. 


side, an actor since 1809, a playwright with a dozen years' ex- 
perience behind him — what more could be wanted for dra- 
matic success? Knowles was the author between 1815 and 
1843 of sixteen plays, beginning with the tragedies, Caiuy 
Gracchus and Virgintus, 1820, so famous for their vigorous 
declamatory possibilities in their day, and. continuing — to name 
only a few — through William Tell, 1825, and the historical 
plays, The Hunchback, 1832, most popular of all, and com- 
edies such as The Love Chase and Old Maids, both acted for 
the first time after the accession of the queen. The ideal of 
Knowles was the revival of romantic drama: this appears to be 
the ideal of most dramatists in most ages. On one side Knowles 
was well equipped. He was possessed of a skilful stagecraft, 
alike in the construction and conduct of plot. Beyond this, 
Knowles is almost the least of the romanticists. Not only does 
he fail in that touchstone of the romantic art, an ability to turn 
a lyric, but his imagination is commonplace, he is uninventive, 
his dialogue, while at times sprightly, seldom rises above 
mediocrity and his blank-verse, which he uses almost to the ex- 
clusion of prose, is stiff with dignity or slovenly with careless- 
ness. Mr. Archer wickedly calls Knowles the Shakespeare of 
1837; possibly Bulwer Lytton was its Fletcher. Lytton began 
in the manner of Byron ; his early novels have been declared too 
close in this following to have suited the taste of the rising gen- 
eration. After a preliminary failure in the drama, Lytton 
leaped to immediate reputation in The Lady of Lyons, 1838, 
which with his Richelieu, of the same year, have continued to 
keep the stage to the present time. If Knowles was common- 
place he was at least safe : Lytton's plays — these and the two 
or three others that he wrote before 1851 — appear to the 
modern reader, false in sentiment and false in taste. They 
have the glitter and attraction to the eye of tinsel and its re- 
pulsiveness to the touch and understanding. The plot of The 
Lady of Lyons contemplated in quiet is absurd; its hero, Claude 
Melnotte, is quite pitifully unheroic, and there is not the ghost 
of the art of historical portraiture in Richelieu. Yet the things 
act; Lytton, too, had the precious secret of stagecraft which 
verily does cover a multitude of sins. Amongst other names, 
Mr. Archer gives us G. W. Lovell, Gerald Griffin, and West- 
land Marston, reminding us of the success of Talford's Ion 
and the failure of Robert Browning's Strafford, just before the 
beginning of the reign, and granting to Leigh Hunt's success- 


ful Legend of Florence, 1840, the palm as the drama of the 
period in which " dramatic and literary qualities are most hap- 
pily blent." Into " the minor drama," with Knowles and 
Lytton for the majors, we need not descend. The amiable 
Planche wrote burlesque and extravaganza for fifty years, doing 
less harm thereby than some who have followed him, and 
Douglas Jerrold, famous wit and contributor to Punch, with a 
dozen names now less remembered, added their comedies, melo- 
dramas, farces and what not to divert the time. 

No drama, with a past such as that of England, could be un- 
conscious of what had gone before, and there has been no time 
since his own when Shakespeare has not been read, acted, ad- 
mired and misunderstood in proportion to the degree in which he 
stands at variance with temporary standards of taste and man- 
ners. The growing respect for Shakespeare among scholars and 
the return of the stage to the presentation of his words, as 
nearly as possible as he wrote them, has already been mentioned. 
Before long other Elizabethans began to receive the editorial and 
critical attention that had so long been denied them; and 
Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, Gifford's edi- 
tion of Jonson, Coleridge's Biographia Literaria and the sev- 
eral books of Hazlitt, involving the discussion of dramatic 
literature, presented the whole subject to the reading public in 
a new and truer light. These works, coinciding as they did in 
point of time, with the vogue of Byron, whose plays, deny it as 
he might, owed much to this same dramatic past, begot in the 
years that followed a veritable Elizabethan revival. On the 
stage this influence was necessarily superficial, except in so far 
as it stimulated the staging of the old plays. Shakespeare be- 
came even more popular in the days of Macready than in those 
of Garrick or Kean. The two licensed houses vied with each 
other in the number of these " revivals " and in their appropriate 
setting and novelty, leaving only some few of the out of the 
way plays unacted. Other old authors were brought to light, 
though here the age preferred the Elizabethan veneer which 
Knowles, Sheil, and others were able to give to their own plays. 
From a literary point of view, by far the most interesting out- 
come of this rereading of our old drama was the series of fine 
poetic closet plays that came from the pens of Darley, Wade, 
Wells. Beddoes and Home within little more than the decade, 
from 1825 onward. Darley's Sylvia is a lyrical fairy pastoral, 
reminiscent, in the best sense, alike of A Midsummer Night's 


Dream and The Faithful Shepherdess; Wade and Wells fall 
together in their discipleship to Marlowe, however immediately 
both were influenced lyrically by Keats. Wade's two dramas 
are Woman's Love and The Jew of Arragon, the latter a 
failure, we are told, because it dared to champion the Jew much 
as Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice has been contorted into 
doing in our own day. Wells is practically the author of but 
one work, Joseph and his Brethren, first published as early as 1823, 
and absolutely unnoticed at the time ; but finally revised, nearly 
fifty years later, owing to the praise of Rossetti and Swinburne. 
Joseph and his Brethren is a fine dramatic poem "writ dia- 
logue wise"; it was never intended for the stage. Nor can 
more be said, from th'is point of view, for the two extraordinary 
dramas of Beddoes, The Bride's Tragedy, published in 1822, 
when the author was a student at Oxford, and Death's Jest- 
Book, complete four years later, but not printed until after the 
author's death in 1851. Beddoes was a physician who passed 
the greater part of his life in Germany and Switzerland. The 
influences upon his work are, for the Elizabethans, Marlowe 
and more particularly Webster, but both acting on the German 
Gothic romance, derived less through its English imitations, 
than direct. Beddoes was possessed of an extraordinary im- 
agination and wealth of phrase and imagery, a spirit of daring 
and metaphysical brooding, all of which recalls the spacious old 
days of England's dramatic glory. But neither he, nor Wells, 
nor Darley could have been, but for the more immediate in- 
fluences, the speculative lyricism of Shelley, and the gorgeous 
descriptive sensuousness of Keats. 

Lastly of this group, Richard Hengist Home is the author of 
three tragedies Cosmo de'Medici, The Death of Marlowe and 
Gregory VII. All partake, in notable degree, of the Eliza- 
bethan spirit, especially the play on Marlowe which has a fire, 
directness and intensity that the subject and example should in- 
spire. Home's are the least inconceivable of the group on the 
stage; but his dramas never reached it. "Pseudo-Shake- 
spearean," I do not like to call these sincere and strong spirited 
poets who found in the inspiration of a great age of the past 
an impetus for expression which their own time could not give 
them. But there is no better summary of the futility of all 
such art than is to be found in the often quoted words of Bed- 
does himself: "These reanimations are vampire-cold. Such 
ghosts as Marlowe, Webster, etc., are better dramatists, better 


poets, I dare say, than any contemporary of ours, but they are 
ghosts — the worm is in their pages, — and we want to see 
something that our great-grandsires did not know. With the 
greatest reverence for all the antiquities of the drama, I still 
think that we had better beget than revive, attempt to give the 
literature of this age an idiosyncrasy and spirit of its own, and 
only raise a ghost to gaze on, not to live with." ^ 

Browning's Strafford was actually performed a few weeks be- 
fore the accession of Queen Victoria. The suggestion that the 
poet write for the stage came from Macready, who had ever 
an ambition to unite literature once more to the drama; the 
great actor even proposed the subject. But the play ran only 
five nights. For some eight years Browning continued largely 
preoccupied with the drama, Pippa Passes, King Victor and 
King Charles, The Return of the Druses, The Blot on the 
'Scutcheon, Colombe's Birthday, Luria and A Soul's Tragedy 
following in almost an annual succession. A Blot on the 
'Scutcheon was also inspired by Macready, but when it came 
to the stage, in 1843, he took no role in it; and, the play being 
" underacted," had only a short run. Colombe's Birthday was 
printed first and acted some nine years after ; Pippa Passes was 
not staged until much later and then not professionally. These 
eight years of dramatic experimentation produced by far the 
bulkiest single part of Browning's work, a part, too, in which 
the powerful, original, eloquent and manly poet has left us 
some of the most beautiful and characteristic work. ^ It is 
notable, however, that this work rises in poetic value in pro- 
portion as it departs from the conventions of accepted stage- 
craft, that the series, instead of exhibiting a rise in this respect, 
remains, from first to last, the individual expression of a power- 
ful intellect forcing its art into an alien mould. However, by 
no means were all these works intended for the stage; but the 
distinction between those that were so intended and those that 
were not is unessential. Without renewing here a discussion 
that has been worn threadbare, it may be noted that in his 
dramas the two cardinal limitations of this great poet are his 
inability to escape from his own personality and, what may be 
called, the static quality of his art, as contrasted with that 
dynamic impulse which keeps things moving in drama that has 

' Quoted by Mr. E. Gosse, The Poetical Works of Beddoes, Introduc- 
tion, i, p. xxiv. 


been successfully written for the stage. It is a commonplace 
that all the dramatic figures of Browning reason and argue — 
and how much they reason and argue ! — with the intellectual 
brilliancy and address of their creator. If this is an overstate- 
ment of the truth, it must at least be admitted that he is likely 
to take one central figure and view the rest of his dramatis 
personae from this acquired subjective position. There is little 
agility in Browning, to put himself dramatically in any other 
rnan's place, is to him next to an impossibility; and while we 
feel, how carefully he has studied his characters that we rnay 
superficially distinguish them, the distinctions are not radical 
and leave in us an impression that his shadows are too heavily 
weighted with their emotions, or perhaps more accurately, with 
their mental processes about their emotions. As to the want 
of dynamic impulse, not only are the plots of Browning far 
from well chosen or wrought out ; they are sluggish and if they 
move at all, uncertain and discontinuous in their movement. 
Browning has achieved some great situations, most notable 
among them, the famous scene between Ottima and Sebald in 
Pippa Passes; but it is wholly static and affected altogether 
from without ; it is in the nature of drama, it is not truly dra- 
matic, for the extraneous influence is accidental, not essentially 
within, as are the promptings of the witches in Macbeth, a 
parallel often suggested. It is because of this immanence of 
self and immobility that Browning is not a dramatist, despite 
the supremacy of his poetry, his noble ethics andhis compelling 
force of thought. Browning must have recognised his limita- 
tions, for while that surprising power of his to give vitality to 
a situation by an analysis of its component elements, delivered 
in flashes of insight, continues to animate his poetry to the end ; 
he ceased writing dramas as such in 1846. Shall we say, to 
find a larger utterance in a poem such as The Ring and the 
Book? Or may we doubt whether this marvellous ability to 
focus the mental activity, so to speak, on the poetic analysis of 
a situation, viewed successively from half a dozen points, may 
not mean the individuality of a remarkable genius of avery 
exceptional kind, rather than mark any permanent step in an 
evolution away from the simpler, less perplexing art that is con- 
tent with the interplay of incident and character illuminated by 
the light of poetry and unclogged with ratiocination. 

Browning tried the drama early In his career; Tennyson 
waited until he had reached full recognition in his art, when 


In Memoriam was nearly a generation old and the cycle of 
The Idyls of the King had reached its completeness. Tenny- 
son is likewise the author of eight plays. Queen Mary, adapted 
to the stage by Henry Irving, was favourably received in 1876; 
three years later The Falcon, a poetical drama based on Boccac- 
cio, ran sixty-seven nights; in 1881, The Cup was successfully 
acted ; but, the next year, less applause was bestowed on a 
tragedy of village life, called The Promise of May. The poet 
had already published Harold and Becket which latter, abridged 
by Irving, was acted in 1893; and a little before this time a 
Robin Hood play, The Foresters, was presented first in America 
and later in London. Tennyson's trial of the stage was a 
more thorough one than Browning's. Though he came to it a 
far older man, there was an adaptability about his genius which, 
leaving out the lesser plays, shows itself in the improved tech- 
nique and stagecraft of Becket as contrasted with the over- 
crowded scene of Queen Mary. Moreover, the association with 
Irving was happier than that of Browning and Macready, and 
his great fame, the accepted poet laureate, not only by royal 
patent but by the suffrage of the world of English speaking 
readers, gave to anything he might do a sanction and prestige 
that no other poet of the century could enjoy. Yet even Tenny- 
son could not bridge the chasm between the stage and literature, 
and in his case for a different reason. Tennyson had long since 
reached an objectivity in his beautiful art that was never Brown- 
ing's. But while his personages never represent Browning's 
masquerading projection of himself upon the canvas of his 
scene, save for the strong lines of Becket and possibly the fine 
original conception of Harold, distraught between two realms 
and two ages, Tennyson's characters have little individuality 
and, to some extent, even his poetry fails him in important mo- 
ments. Mere cutting down will not convert a closet play, how- 
ever poetic, into a drama for the stage ; and neither Tennyson's 
nature nor his training gave him that sympathy with the audi- 
tors' point of view, that feeling for the word as spoken, that 
sense of reality in the unreal world of the stage, all of which 
are among the infinitude of things that go to make up that 
mystery, the successful dramatist. Moreover, Tennyson's 
greater dramas, far more than Browning's, are another renewal 
of the effort to rehabilitate the stage by following the Shake- 
spearean tradition. And so, too, as to Swinburne we recognise 
that it was his passionate love for Elizabethan drama, which he 



knew so well and championed so enthusiastically, that begot 
the greater number of his nine memorable and beautiful poems 
in dramatic form. Especially is this true of his earliest play 
Rosamund and the Queen Mother, i860, and his last, Rosa- 
mund, Queen of the Lombards, 1899, as of his version of the 
Marino Faliero story, already treated by Byron, and of the 
great trilogy of Mary Stuart, the enormous length and elabo- 
ration of which not only effectively defeats any possibility of 
stage representation but of a complete reading by any but the 
most valiant reader. Another influence in greater purity than 
ever before since Milton, has begotten in our age several ex- 
quisite imitations of Attic tragedy, among which Swinburne s 
beautiful Atalanta in Calydon is the most deservedly famous and 
his Erechtheus and Matthew Arnold's Empedocles on JEtna, 
which preceded them both, are the most important. ^ But not 
only are these productions " Greek with a difference ' quite as 
great, each in its kind, as was ever that difference in Keats but 
all are essentially lyrical and in their thought expressive of the 
last great age that was but yesterday ours. There is no more 
salvation for the drama in infusing modern ideas into the myths 
of yEschylus and Sophocles, marble pure and marble cold, than 
there is for our religion in altars erected to the Diana of the 
Ephesians. Nor along the Tennysonian line of the following 
of the great example of Shakespeare can dramatic rehabilitation 
ever come. There will be no rejuvenation until we can escape 
from that great shadow and see anew the face of the sun. 

As to Victorian writers for the stage, until we turn the new 
leaf of the present, into which we shall not look, the perversity 
of some malignant, or at least some mischievous, goddess, m 
charge of meting out the endowments of dramatic genius, ap- 
pears to have pursued them. To T. W. Robertson, author of 
Society Caste, Ours and other successes of monosyllabic title in 
the sixties and seventies, this fitful deity granted the actors 
minute knowledge of the stage, a fresh humour and naturalness 
and a pervasive geniality that went far to account for his con- 
temporary vogue ; but she denied him originality, any genuine 
power to construct a plot or the least vestige of literary quality 
or distinction in what he wrote. On Tom Taylor, on the other 
hand — remembered bv the playgoers of a generation before the 
last for The Fool's Revenge, The Ticket of Leave Man and 
Our American Cousin — tht jealous goddess bestowed a cul- 
tivated taste and no mean constructive ability, but she gave him 


only a commonplace imagination with which to employ these 
happier endowments. Still again, Charles Reade, the novelist, 
was an earnest, eager if difficult man, full of confidence in him- 
self and possessed of a hectoring and controversial style. His 
best play is Masks and Faces, the stage version of his later 
story. Peg Woffington, an interesting comedy of intrigue, pos- 
sessed of genuine wit and true feeling ; and his version of Zola's 
L'Assommoir, Drink, is a drama of brutal reality and violence 
to move, disclosing, in its fidelity to the actual, the novelist's 
equally fatal limitation as a playwright, while the improbabili- 
ties of w'hich he is readily convicted elsewhere, display a con- 
flicting, if equally dangerous limitation. Lastly, there is Dion 
Boucicault, " the adaptive Mr. Boucicault," as Fitzgerald called 
him, who appropriated to his immediate dramatic uses whatever 
light article he might find, French or other, floating on the 
broad surface of the drama of the past or the present. Bouci- 
cault is responsible for two well-known dramas of the super- 
natural, " ghost plays," they are perhaps better called, Rip van 
Winkle (that has made more than one actor's reputation), and 
The Corsican Brothers, by no means dead yet in the purlieus 
of the theatrical world. But his great forte lay in the Irish 
play. The Colleen Bawn, The Shaughraun, O'Dowd, careless, 
"patriotic," unprincipled and impossible caricatures of his na- 
tive country — or of any other country or society of men, for 
that matter — which somehow long continued to carry their 
loose joints through five acts of humorous improbability to the 
delight of their auditors. In the make-up of this last dramatist, 
our capricious goddess had forgotten not only literature, but 
responsible dealing with the wares that he handled. 

Nor can much more be said for the names which Mr. Archer, 
that tried and outspoken critic of our late Victorian stage, chose 
to distinguish as " dramatists of to-day," in the year 1882, five 
years later picking out the following from among them : W. G. 
Wills, W. S. Gilbert, A. W. Pinero, J. Albery, S. Grundy, 
H. A. Jones, G. R. Sims and H. Merivale — the order is Mr. 
Archer's. ^ With as great a delight as any of his contemporaries 
in Gilbert's humour of topsy-turvydom, and with respect for the 
fertility, thoughtfulness, industry and substantial success of 
all who, vi^orking in the drama, are still with us, it can not be 
said that in any of these names, or perhaps in those of our 
present moment, — even the keen, the trenchant, the irrepressi- 
ble, the delightfully unexpected Mr. Shaw — is to be found 


that great regenerator of the stage who is to unite once 
more, in a dramatic picture of life, the quality of litera- 
ture, whether poetic, satirical or realistic, with the his- 
trionic art. One name that arose in the drama of the 
nineties, only too soon to be tragically eclipsed, seems to 
stand out in this respect above others. The name is that of 
Oscar Wilde ; his comedies Lady M^indemere's Fan, A Woman 
of No Importance and The Importance of Being Ernest. For 
the serious minded, who are unable to judge any work of art on 
its merits as such, but must always challenge the right of man 
to exist except as a machine for the solving of problems, the 
righting of wrongs, the active pursuit of all evils and anomalies 
to their utter undoing, there is nothing to say for these incom- 
parable trifles. It takes an extraordinary amount and quality 
of thought to perpetrate trivialities such as these; and there is 
more beneath than appears in this dazzling swords' play of 
wit, this amazing ingenuity and endless resource. Moreover, 
here the literary quality, at least, is in no question, however we 
may pause at the want of any underlying ethical soundness, that 
greatest of the essentials to great drama. It is such glimpses as 
this of the promised land that forbid us to despair of drama in 
the English tongue for the future; such glimpses, too, as we are 
now getting of an indigenous drama, not nurtured to meet the 
cravings of a metropolitan audience, but arising out of local 
conditions, whether Irish, English or other, in which human 
nature is less sophisticated and abraided by the attrition of 
modern life. Least of all can we believe that the revolution 
effected in our manner of taking our serious theatrical amuse- 
ments by the art, however great, of men of foreign birth and 
alien modes of thought, can ever restore to us the drama as a 
great national utterance. 


Abelard, i6 

Addison, Joseph, 267, 276, 283, 

287, 289-291, 297 
i^i^schylus, 330 
Albery, James, 331 
Alengon, Duke d', 46 
Alexander, Sir William, 142, 144 
Alleyn, Edward, 51, 53, 105, 

107, 204 

■ John, 51 

Ancourt, d',278 

Anne, Queen, 264, 282 

Queen (of Denmark), 158, 


Archer, Mr. W., 268, 280, 281, 

323. 324. 331 
Argenzola, 188 

Aristophanes, 2, 153, 223, 224 
Aristotle, 2, 6 
Annin, Robert, 94, no, 170 


Bacon, Francis, 77, 118, 161, 176 

Matthew, 77 

Baillie, Joanna, 315. 3^8 
Baines, Richard, 70 
Bale, John, 28, 30, 69 
Bandello, 190 
Banks, John, 246, 265 
Barclay, John, 219 
Barnes, Barnabe, 139 
Barrey, Lodowick, 170 
Barry, Elizabeth, 237, 254, 259, 

264, 274, 278 
Bassano, 35 _ 
Beaumarchais, 310 
Beaumont, Francis, 96, 117, 

159-162, 174-184, 186-188, 

196, 204, 206 

Beaumont, Sir Francis, 175 
Beddoes, Thomas Lovell, 325, 

Beeston, Christopher, 209 
Behn, Aphara, 257, 261, 262, 

265, 297 
Bellott, Stephen 76 
Berkeley, Sir William, 231 
Betterton, Mary Sanderson, 264 
Thomas, 149, 238, 247, 249, 

254, 264, 266, 272, 276, 278, 

Blackmore, Sir Richard, 269 
Boas, Mr. F. S., 71 
Boccaccio, 171, 329 
Booth, Barton, 285, 288 
Boucicault, Dion, vi, 331 
Boutel, Mrs., 274 
Bower, Richard, 40, 41, 145 
Boyle, Roger, see Orrery 
Bracegirdle, Anne, 237, 264, 

267, 278 
Brandon, Samuel, 142, 143 
Brend, Sir Nicholas, 51 
Bridgewater, Earl of, 214 
Bristol, Earl of, 256 
Brome, Alexander, 231 
Richard, 121, 170, 202, 205, 

219-221, 261, 262, 272 
Brooke, Arthur, 43, 81 

Henry, 297 

Lord, see Greville 

Samuel, 193 

Browne, William, 159, 162 
Browning, Robert, vi, 99, 144, 

309. 324, 327-329 
Bruno, Giordano, 169 
Bryan, George, 51 
Brydges, John, 37 
Buc, Sir George, 137, 201 
Buchanan, George, 30, 38 
Buckingham, first Duke of, 164 




Buckingham, second Duke of, 

248, 250, 271 
BuUen, Mr. A. H., 95, 196 
Buononcici, 293 
Burbage, Cuthbert, 51 

James, 45, 50, 51 

Richard, 51, 79. 107, 156, 

Burleigh, Lord, 44 
Burney, Fanny, 311 
Butler, Samuel, 250 
Byron, Lord, vi, 316, 319-525. 


Calderon, 263 
Calprenfede, 245, 247 
Camden, William, 148 
Campbell, Thomas, 316 
Campion, Thomas, 157-160 
Carew, Lady Elizabeth, 144 

Thomas, 214 

Carey, Henry, 300 

Carldl, Lodowick, 229-231, 244, 

Carlisle, Countess of, 228 
Cartwright, William, 219, 220, 

222, 223, 236, 262 
Cawarden, Sir Thomas, 40, 45 
Caxton, William, 25, 174 
Centlivre, Susanna, 266, 282 
Cervantes, 96, 188, 189, 198, 


Cespedes, de, 188 

Chamberlaine, Robert, 231 

Chambers, Mr. E. K., 15, 18, 32 

Chapman, George, 59, loi, 102, 
131. 132, 136, 137, 145. 146, 
151. 157. 159-161, 165, 167- 
170, 195, 204, 207, 208, 272 

Charles L, 40, 158, 161, 162, 
164, 193, 194. 200, 204, 205, 
209, 213-215, 218, 219, 221, 
224, 226, 230, 235, 236 

IL, no, 148, 174, 205, 230, 

239, 240, 248, 251, 260, 268, 

Chaucer, Geoflfrey, 41, 57, 187 

Cheke, Henry, 35 

Chettle, Henry, 79, 91-93. I09. 
114, 131, 132, 139, 147 

Gibber, Colley, 242, 249, 270, 

272, 274-277, 280-282, 285, 

288, 292, 299-301, 308 

Theophilus, 299 

Cinthio, 44, 100, 132 
Clayton, Thomas, 289 
Cleveland, Duchess of, 263 
Clifford, Martin, 250 
Clinch, Lawrence, 305 
Cockayne, Sir Aston, 175, 176, 

196, 202, 214, 219 
Cockburne, Catherine Trotter, 

Coleman, Mrs., 236 
Coleridge, Mr. E., 321 
Samuel Taylor, 315, 318, 

319. 325 
Collier, Jeremy, 233, 268, 270, 

278, 283, 309 


Colman, George, the elder, 302, 

303. 307.310,311 

George, the younger, 310 

Congreve, Wilham, 259, 265- 

271, 274, 276-278, 280-282, 

297, 298, 306, 307 
Cooke, Joshua, 170 
Corneille, 231, 237, 240, 241, 

257, 282, 284, 291 
Cornish, William, 1 56, and see 33, 

Cowley, Abraham, 219, 225, 226, 

Cox, Robert, 235 
Cradock, Joseph, 301 
Cranmer, Thomas, 27, 28 
Creizenach, Professor W., 16 
Cromwell, Oliver, 234, 239, 248 

Thomas, Earl of Essex, 28 

Crowne, John, 238, 246-248, 

257. 271, 274 
Cumberland, Richard, 288, 303, 

307. 308, 310-312 
Cyprian, 24 


Daborae, Robert, 94, 106, 178, 

193, 196 
Daniel, Samuel, 90, 142-144, 

146, 152, 155-160, 192, 193, 

222, 224, 226 



Darley, George, 325, 326 

Davenant, Sir William, 205, 207, 
215, 220, 226-229, 235-240, 
243, 244, 250, 256-258, 271, 
272, 294 

Davenport, Elizabeth, 264 

Robert, 201, 202, 219 

Da vies, Thomas, 274 

Davison, Francis, 158 

Day, John, 93, 94, 98, 114, 138, 
151, 191, 211 

Dee, Dr. John, 118 

Dekker, Thomas, 56, 93, 97, 107, 
109, no, 113-115, 119-121, 
138, 140, 152, 153, 163, 165, 
I93i 196, 199, 202, 204, 216 

Deloney, Thomas, no 

Denham, Sir John, 219 

Dennis, John, 266, 272, 290, 299 

Derby, Lord, 51 

Devonshire, Countess of, 215 

Earl of, 215 

Dibden, Charles, 260 

Dickens, Charles, 295 

Diderot, 295 

Dio Cassius, 146 

Dodsley, Robert, 232, 256 

Dolce, 42 

Doran, John, 265 

Drayton, Michael, 87, 88, 90, 92, 
93, 106, 108, 142, 146, 174 

Drummond, William, 155 

Dryden, Elizabeth Howard, 239 

John, vii. 135, 151, 184, 

222, 227, 229, 234, 238-254, 
260-267, 269, 270, 271, 275, 
278-282, 287, 291, 293, 294, 
299, 308 

Duflfet, Thomas, 272, 273 

Duncombe, William, 297, 301 

D'Urf6, Honors, 226, 265 

D'Urfey, Thomas, 246, 265, 272 


Edgar, King, 15 
Edward III., 17 
Edwards, Richard, 40, 41, 57, 

Elderton, William, 40 
Elizabeth, Queen, 10, 11, 18, 30, 

39, 40, 42, 46, 48, 49, 54. 63, 
64, 73, 86, 92, 93, 98, loi, 108, 
118, 157, 158, 300 

Queen of Bohemia, 139, 160, 

184, 205 

Erasmus, 27 

Essex, Frances Howard, Coun- 
tess of, 1 59 

Robert Devereux, second 

Earl of, 86, 92, 143, 156 

Robert Devereux, third 

Earl of, 159 

Thomas, Earl of, see Crom- 

Etherege, Sir George, 259, 260, 
263, 268, 271, 277, 281 

Euripides, 12, 30, 38, 48, 266 

Eusden, Laurence, 281 

Evelyn, John, 269 

Fanshawe, Richard, 256 
Farquhar, George, 238, 269, 272, 

276, 278-280, 283, 303 
Farrant, Richard, 40, 45 
Fen ton, Elijah, 292 
Field, Nathaniel, 170, 196, 221, 

Fielding, Henry, 270, 281, 286, 

292, 297, 298, 300, 301,311 
Fitzgerald, P. H., 331 
Fitzstephen, William, 8, 17 
Fletcher, John, 93, loi, 102, 114, 
117, 125, 127, 138-140, 174- 
184, 186-192, 195-198, 200- 
202, 205-207, 209, 212, 218, 
219, 221, 226, 227, 229, 232, 
234, 235, 238, 243, 244, 253, 
256, 271, 272, 278, 279, 282, 


Laurence, 155, 184 

Phineas, 193, 194 

Richard, 175 

Flores, de, 188 

Foote, Samuel, 297, 300, 303, 

Forcett, Edward, 73, 169 
Ford, John, 97, 115, 121, 205, 

Foxe, John, 31 



Frederick, Elector Palatine, 139, 

160, 184, 200, 205 
Freeman, Ralph, 232 
Freytag, G., 6 
Fumess, H. H., 135 


Gager, William, 43, 49, 58, 73 
Gardiner, Stephen, 27 

S. R., 200, 209 

Gamier, 66, 125, 141, 142, I45. 

146, 152 
Garrick, David, 265, 271, 273, 
283, 288, 292, 298, 300-302, 
305. 306, 310, 325 
Gascoigne, George, 32, 42, 43, 

48, 49, 82, 114, 157. 169, 191 
Gay, John, 267, 293, 294, 305 
Geddes, Richard, 145 
Genest, John, 270, 320 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, 91 
George I., 265, 282 

III., 309 

IV., 361 

Gifford, William, 325 
Gilbert, William Schwenck, 331 
Gildon, Charles, 266, 272 
Glapthorne, Henry, 137, 219, 

220, 226, 259 
Godfrey of Le Mana, 16 
Godwin, William, 315, 31?. 3i8 
Goethe, 68, 144, 312, 314, 320, 

Goffe, Thomas, 145, 147. 219, 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 270, 286, 

287, 297, 301-304. 307-310 
Goodman, Cardell, 264 
Gosse, Mr. E., 308 
Gosson, Stephen, 43 
Gough, John, 231 
Grabu, 258 

Greene, Robert, 31, 57, 58, 60- 

65, 68-70, 72, 74, 79. 90, 93, 

95, 96, 98, 104, 109, no, 138, 

145, 170, 185 

Greville, Fulke, 142-144. Uo, 

156, 226 
Grevin, 145 
Griffin, Gerald, 324 
Grimald, Nicholas, 31 

Grosart, Dr. Alexander, 63 
Grosteste, Robert, 19 
Grundy, Mr. S., 331 
Guarini, 192, 226 
Gwinne, Matthew, 127 
Gwyn, Nell, 227, 240, 264 
Gyles, Nathaniel, 41, 170, 233 
Thomas, 40 


Habington, William, 219, 232 
Halifax, Lord, 267 
Halle, Edward, 90 
Handel, 258, 293, 294 
Harrison, William, 289 
Harvey, Gabriel, 71, 72 
Hathway, Richard, 93 
Hauptmann, 218 
Hausted, Peter, 225 
Hazlitt, WUUam, 218, 325 
Heming, John, 51, 222 

William, 222 

Henrietta Maria, Queen, 161, 

205, 206, 226, 228 
Henry XL, 18 

VII., 30 

IV., of France, 138 

VIII., 27, 28, 32, 33, 40, 

156, 158 

Prince (Stuart), 158, 185 

Henslowe, Philip, 51-54, 65, 
92-95, 105-109, 114, 115. 122, 
134, 138, 139, 145. 148, 149, 
163, 167, 178, 185, 193, 196, 
204, 219 
Herbert, Sir Henry, 200, 208, 

Heywood, John, 9, 33-37 
Thomas, 90, 91, 93, 94, 9o. 

103, 107, 109, 111-113. 1^6, 

118, 122, 124, 127, 146, 156, 

163, 170, 190, 191, 202, 204, 

225, 287 
Hilarius, 8, 16, 17 
Hill, Aaron, 293, 297, 298, 301, 

Hogarth, William, 295 
Holcroft, Thomas, 310, 311, 3^7 
Holinshed, Ralph, 87, 90, 133, 

185, 212 
Home, John, 298, 309 



Homer, 208 

Hopkins, Charles, 265 

Horace, 153 

Home, Richard Hengist, 325, 

Houghton, William, 93, 109, 

114, 138, 170 
Howard, Edward, 256 

Frances, see Essex 

James, 256, 273 

Sir Robert, 238-240, 244, 

245, 250, 256 
Howell, James, 228 
Hrotswitha, 8 
Hughes, John, 292 

Margaret, 264 

Thomas, 42 

Hunnis, William, 41, 43, 45 
Hunsdon, Lord, 50, 51 
Hunt, Leigh, 323, 324 

Ibsen, 218 
Inchbald, Elizabeth Simpson, 

310, 313 
Ingeland, Thomas, 35 
Innocent III., Pope, 19 
Ireland, William Henry, 312 
Irving, Sir Henry, 329 


James I., 40, 46, 49, 61, 92, 94, 
98, 106, 115, 119, 122, 137, 138, 
142-144, 155, 158, 159, 161, 
164, 169, 172, 184, 185, 187, 
189, 197, 204, 256 

II., 264 

v., of Scotland, 29 

Jephson, Robert, 312 
Jerrold, Douglas, 325 
Jewell, John, Bishop, 120 
Johnson, Charles, 292, 297 
Dr. Samuel, 265, 267, 291, 

297, 298, 303, 309 
Jones, Mr. H. A., 331 

Inigo, 158, 160, i6i, 214 

Jonson, Ben, 6, 40, 56, 60, 64, 
65, 78, 87, 88, 93, 94, 97, 98, 
lo8, 109, 114, 115, 117-121, 
125-127, 129, 135, 136, 138, 
139, 142, 146, 148-172, 174- 

176, 178, 189, 193, 194, 197, 
200, 202, 204, 207, 212, 213, 
215, 218, 220-223, 225, 226, 
228, 231, 239, 251, 262, 291 


Kean, Edmund, 249, 298, 325 
Keats, John, 99, 319, 322, 326 
Kelly, Hugh, 302, 303, 310 
Kemble, Charles, 323 

John Philip, 323 

Kempe, William, 52, no 
Kett, Francis, 67, 70 
Kildare, Earl of, 206 
Killigrew, Henry, 230 

Sir William, 230 

Thomas, 229-231, 236-239, 

244, 256, 261 
Kingsley, Charles, 209 
Kirchmayer, 28 
Kirke, John, 231 
Knevet, Ralph, 225 
KnoUys, Richard, 144 
Knowles, Sheridan, vi, 309, 319, 


Kotzebue, 312-315 

Kyd, Thomas, 60, 63-66, 68, 
71-74, 81, 95, 104, 125, 128- 
130, 136, 138, 141, 142, 145 

Kynaston, Edward, 273 

La Chauss^e, 302 

Lacy, John, 238, 260, 272 

Lamb, Charles, 113, 318, 322, 

Lambarde, William, 92 
Landor, Walter Savage, 318 
Laneham, Robert, 10, 11 
Laneman, Henry, 50 
Lang, Andrew, vi 
Lansdowne, Lord, 266 
La Taille, 145 
Lawes, William, 214 
Lee, Nathaniel, 246, 248, 249, 

251, 265, 270, 274, 279, 299 
Legge, Thomas, 42 
Leicester, Earl of, 10, 42, 46, 50, 

86, 118 
Leigh, Anthony, 243 



Lessing, 295, 312 

Lewis, Matthew Gregory, 313, 

Lillo, George, 294-296 
Linlcy, Elizabeth, 304 
Locke, John, 265 

Matthew, 258 

Lockhart, John Gibson, 314 
Lodge, Thomas, 31, 61, 64, 69, 

72, 74. 94. 124 
Louis XIV., 287 
Lovelace, Richard, 219, 232 
LovcU, George William, 324 
Lowes, Sir William, 23 1 , 257 
Lowin, John, 204 
Lucan, 221 
Luther, 27, 28 
Lycophoron, 71 
Lydgate,John,33, 156 
Lyly, John, 39, 40, 44, 46-49, 56, 

58, 64, 68. 72-74, 82, 83, 95. 

96, 174, 191, 224 

William, 44 

Lyndsay, Sir David, 29, 30, 33 
Lytton, Edward George Earle 

Lytton, Bulwer- 324, 325 


Machiavelli, 119, 169,239 
Machin, Lewis, 95 
Macklin, Charles, 302, 310 
Macready, William Charles, 

320, 323. 325. 3^7 
Maeterlinck, 218, 223 
Manley, Mary de la Riviere, 266, 

Markham, Gervase, 95 
Marlborough, Duke of, 290 
— — Henrietta, Duchess of, 267 

Sarah, Duchess of, 278 

Marlowe, Christopher, v, 39, 52, 
59, 62, 64, 66-75, 79. 81-83, 
90, 95, 96, loi, 104, 105, 115, 
136, 139, 145, 146, 175. 219, 
Marmion, Shakerley, 202, 219 
Marston, John, loi, 102, in, 
126-129, 140, 146, 152, 153, 
159, 165, 171, 193. 201, 204, 
John Westland, 324 

Marvell, Andrew, 239 
Mary Stuart, Queen, 46 
Mary Tudor, Queen, 29 
Mason, John, 145, 147 
Massinger, Philip, 138, 175, 176, 

178, 188, 194-201, 205, 213, 
220, 221, 244, 256, 261, 272, 
287,288, 311 

Matthews, Professor B., 80, 306 
Maturin, Charles Robert, 315 
May, Thomas, 202, 219, 222 
Mayne, Jasper, 202, 219, 220 
Med well, Henry, 26, 27 
Mendoza, 256 
Meredith, George, 99 
Meres, Francis, 60, 71, 84, 85, 

99. H9 „ ^ 

Merivale, H. C, 331 

Middleton, Thomas, 6, 94, loi, 
102, 113, 116, 117, 121, 139, 
140, 146, 163-165, 169-172, 

179, 185, 189, 195, 197. 200, 
202, 204, 207, 209, 220, 221, 
225, 261 

Miller, James, 297 

Milman, Henry Hart, 319, 322 

Milton, John, 192, 214, 239, 253, 

321, 330 
Mitford, Mary Russell, 322 
Molifere, 241, 254, 257, 260, 263, 

278, 282, 284, 298 
Molina, 211, 256 
Monck, General, 236 
Montague, Walter, 214, 225, 226 
Montgomery, Earl of, 200 
Moore, Edward, 297 
More, Hannah, 310, 311 

Sir Thomas, 27 

Morton, Thomas, 310 
Mountfort, William, 264, 265, 

Mountjoy, Christopher, 76 
Mulcaster, Richard, 64 
Munday, Anthony, 91-93. 97» 

146, 152, 163 
Murphy, Arthur, 297, 301, 302, 



Nabbes, Thomas, 214, 219, 220, 




Nash, Thomas, 65, 70, 72, 80 
Newcastle, Duchess of, 219, 228, 

Duke of, 206, 219, 238, 241 

Newman, John, 45 
Norton, Thomas, 38, 42 

Gates, Titus, 262 

Ogilby, John, 206 

O'Keeffe, John, 310 

Oldfield, Anne, 278, 285 

Ormond, Duke of, 279, 283 

Orrery, Earl of, 219, 229, 238, 
244, 245, 248, 256, 257, 265, 
274, 279 

Otway, Thomas, 246, 254, 255, 
257, 270-272, 276, 279, 281, 
289, 291, 292, 299, 310 

Oxford, Edward de Vere, seven- 
teenth Earl of, 44, 46 

Aubrey de Vere, twentieth 

Earl of, 264 

Painter, Thomas, 44, 127, 190 
Palsgrave, John, 32 
Pausanias, 223 
Peele, George, 31, 42, 48, 49, 

58-62, 64, 68, 69, 72, 73, 90, 

138, 145, 191 
Pembroke, Countess of, 66, 142, 


Henry, second Earl of, 196 

William Herbert, third Earl 

of, 51, 184, 200 
Pepys, Samuel, 238, 258, 259, 

Percy, Thomas, Bishop, 314 

William, 170 

Petrarch, 152 
Petronius Arbiter, 172 
Philip II. of Spain, 46 
Philips, Ambrose, 292, 299 

Augustine, 51 

Katherine, 257 

Pickering, John, 43 
Pinero, Sir A. W., 331 
Pix, Mary Griffith, 266 
Planche, James Robinson, 325 

Plautus, 6, 35, 37, 82, 83, 168, 

169, 190, 225, 241 
Plumtre, Ann, 313 
Plutarch, 124, 135 
Pope, Alexander, vi, 151, 264, 

266, 267, 282, 287, 289, 291, 

293. 294 

Thomas, 51 

Porta, della, 169 

Porter, Henry, 107, 108 

Powell, George, 271 

Preston, Thomas, 43, 59 

Procopius, 194 

Procter, Bryan Waller, 319, 322 

Prudentius, 24 

Prynne, William, 211, 213, 218, 

225, 226, 233, 269 
Purcell, Henry, 258 


Quarles, Francis, 232 
Quin, James, 292 
Quinault, 241 


Rabelais, 160 
Racine, 254, 257, 291 
Radclif, Ralph, 31 
Radcliffe, Anne, 311, 314 
Raleigh, Sir Walter, 70, 256 
Rambouillet, Marquise de, 228 
Randolph, Thomas, 220, 224-226 
Rastell, John, 26 
Ravenscroft, Edward, 260, 272 
RawUns, Thomas, 232 
Reade, Charles, 331 
Reynolds, Frederic, 310 
Rhodes, John, 236 
Rich, Christopher, 293 

John, 293 

Richards, Nathaniel, 222 
Richardson, Samuel, 286, 295, 

Robertson, Mr. J. M., 59, 60, 


T. W., VI, 309, 330 

Rochester, Earl of, 247, 248, 254, 

256, 259, 260, 263, 264 
Rojas, 37 ^ , . , 

Rossetti, Dante Gabnel, 326 



Rostand, E., 2 

Rous, John, 10 

Rousseau, 313 

Rowe, Nicholas, 196, 270, 276, 

287-289, 291, 310 
Rowley, Samuel, 93, 138, 139, 

William, 94, 102, 106, 107, 

115-117, 121, 138, 139, 171. 

178, 185, 189, 195. 196, 202, 

Ruggle, George, 169, 223 
Rupert, Prince, 264 
Rutland, Earl of, 77 
Rutter, Joseph, 225, 257 
Rymer, Thomas, 266 

Sackville, Thomas, 38, 42 

St. Benedict, 15 

St. Gregory Nazianzen, 8 

St. Paul, 24 

Saint-R&il, Abb^, 255 

Saintsbury, Professor G., 64 

Sallust, 127 

Sampson, William, 115 

Sannazaro, 192, 226 

Scarron, 237 

Schiller, 194. 3 12, 314. 3i 5 

Scott, Reginald, 118, 121 

Sir Walter, 42, 252, 312, 


Scribe, 310 

Scud^ry, Georges do, 245 

Mille de, 219, 226, 245 

Sedley, Sir Charles, 260, 263 

Seneca, 38, 41, 42, 44. 48, 59. 
64, 81, 141, 142, 222, 244 

Settle, Elkana, 246, 247, 271 
Shad well, Thomas, 252, 257, 

Shaftsbury, Earl of, 255 
Shakespeare, WilUam, v, vu, 5, 
6, 31. 32, 39. 40, 43, 48, 51, 
52, 55, 57, 59-66, 69, 72-78, 
80-101, 103-105, 107, 100, 
110, 114, 115, 118-120, 123- 
136, 138, 145-148, 151. 154- 
156, 166, 169, 171, 173-179, 
181, 185-188, 192, 193, 200, 
201, 204, 209, 212, 218, 219, 

222-224, 232, 237, 238, 251, 
252, 256, 260, 266, 270-275, 
282, 286-289, 291, 297, 298, 
300, 301, 308, 312, 315, 320, 
323, 324-326, 329 
Sharpham, Edward, 170 
Shaw, Mr. G. B., 218, 313, 331 
Sheil, Richard Lalor, 319, 325 
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, vi, i, 99, 

309, 319. 321, 322, 326 
Sheridan, Charles Francis, 307 

Richard Brinsley, v, 250, 270, 

286, 304-310, 313 
Shirley, James, 137, 171, 173" 
175, 198, 201, 205-215, 220, 
221, 228, 244, 256, 258 
Siddons, Sarah, 249, 298 
Sidney, Sir Phihp, 48, 55. 56, 
99, 134, 142, 143, 157. 191, 
194, 211, 219, 226 
Sims, G.R., 331 
Skelton, John, 27, 30 
Smith, Wentworth, 139 
Smollett, Tobias, 297, 311 
Sophocles, 330 

Southampton, Earl of, 79, 86 
Southcrne, Thomas, 252, 265, 
270, 271, 276, 277, 287, 289, 
Southey, Robert, 318, 323 
Spedding, James, 90 
Spencer, Gabriel, 149 
Spenser, Edmund, 47, 93. 106, 

119, 151 

Sprat, Thomas, 250 
Stapylton, Sir Robert, 238, 256 
Steele, Sir Richard, 267, 270, 
276, 280, 281, 283-287, 290, 

Stephens, John, 144 
Sterne, Laurence, 3 1 1 
Stevenson, William, 37 
Still, John, 37 . , ^ 

Stirling, Earl of, see Alexander 
Stow, John, 90 
Strange, Lord, 51 
Strode, William, 225 
Suckling, Sir John, 219, 220, 228, 

Suetonius, 126, 146 
Sussex, Earl of, 51 
Lady, 66 



Sussex, Swift, Jonathan, 266, 267 

Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 

vi, 168, 308, 326, 329, 330 

Tacitus, 126, 146 

Talfourd, Thomas Noon, 322 

Tarlton, Richard, 50, 56, 57, 72- 

Tasso, 192, 226, 266 
Tate, Nahum, 258, 264, 273, 300 
Tatham, John, 225, 238, 261 
Taylor, John, 40 

Joseph, 204 

Sir Henry, 323 

Tom, 309, 331 

William, 312, 314 

Tennyson, Alfred Lord, vi, 323, 

328, 329 
Terence, 12, 35, 47, 168, 260, 

285, 310 
TertuUian, 24 
Textor, 35, 36 
Theobald, Lewis, 272 
Thompson, Benjamin, 313 
Thomson, James, 292, 299 
Thorndike, Professor A. H., vii 
Tillotson, John, Archbishop, 264 
Tobin, John, 318 
Tolstoi, 218 

Tourneur, Cyril, 131, 132, 178 
Townsend, AureUan, 159 
Tuke, Sir Samuel, 256, 257 
Turner, Richard, 131 
Tylney, Sir Edmund, 40 


Udall, Nicholas, 29, 35, 37, 40 
Urban, Pope, 19 

Vanbrugh, Sir John, 238, 259, 
268, 269-271, 276-278, 280, 
281, 283, 306 

Vere, Sir Aubrey de, the elder, 

Victoria, Queen, 318, 323, 327 

Viga, de, 188, 256, 263 

Virgil, 153, 221, 253 

Voider, William de, 32 
Voltaire, vi, 289, 290, 297, 298, 301 


Wade, Thomas, 325, 326 

Wager, Lewis, 31 

Wallace, Professor C. W., vii, 50, 

51. 77 
Waller, Edmund, 227, 228, 271 
Walpole, Horace, 312 
Ward, Sir A. W., 250 
Warner, William, 90 
Watson, John, 7 
Webster, John, 93, 132, 140, 


146, 163, 165, 202, 272, 

Wells, Charles Jeremiah, 325, 326 
Wesley, Charles, 309 

-John, 292, 309 

Whetstone, George, 44, 56, 100 
Wilberforce, William, 314 
Wilde, Oscar, 332 
Wilkin s, George, 93, 94, ill, 261 
Wilks, Robert, 279, 280, 285 
William the Conqueror, 15, 17 
William HL, 261, 262, 276, 287 
Wills, W. G., 331 
Wilmot, Robert, 44 
Wilson, John, 238, 239, 256 
Robert, the elder, 50, 56, 


Robert, the younger, 92, 93 

Wingfield, Anthony, 73, 169 
Wolsey, Thomas, Cardinal, 28, 29 
Wood, Anthony k, 59, 206 
Worcester, Earl of, 184 
Wordsworth, William, 312, 315, 

Wren, Sir Christopher, 277 
Wycherley, William, 257-259, 

263, 264, 268-271, 280 
Wyclifi, John, 24 

Yarrington, Robert, 115 
Young, Edward, 292 

Zola, 331 

PR Schelling, Felix Emraanuel 

625 English drama 

cop. 3